by Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now
Over the course of the last month you may have heard or read about the tragic tales of Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, and Asher Brown. All three were young men who committed suicide after being bullied because of their sexual orientation.
Clementi, an 18 year old Rutgers University freshman, jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Walsh, 13, hanged himseld from the backyard of his parents’ home. And 13 year old Asher Brown, of Houston, shot himself while in the closet after being bullied by kids at Hamilton Middle School in the Cy Fair School District.
We all grew up with bullying; we know what it is. But it seems to be different now. This is not Scut Farkas and his yellow eyes taking Ralphie’s lunch money in A Christmas Story. It’s not Biff Tannen and George McFly from Back to the Future. It has escalated to the point where kids are killing themselves rather then face another day.
I am not going to pretend to analyze what societal drivers have contributed to the increase in bullying or the intensification of the effects of it. I’ll gladly lead that to the academics. But I know it’s a problem, and I really know I don’t want to write a article detailing why an Oak Ridge area student decided to take his or her own life.
To address this, the Oak Ridge High School PTO and the York Junior High School PTO are working together to put on a proactive workshop designed to help parents significantly improve their interactions and communication with their children and other youth. Attendees will gain an increased understanding of intolerance and bullying, which may include cyber bullying.
This workshop will equip parents with knowledge and skills to act effectively when they or their children witness or hear about mistreatment. Parents will also learn about an effective, youth-centered, school-based program called Safe School Ambassadors and other ways they can work with school leaders to reduce mistreatment and improve school climate.
All parents in all schools in the Oak Ridge feeder zone, from elementary schools to Oak Ridge High School, are welcome and encouraged to attend. The presenter will be John Linney, co-author of “Safe School Ambassadors: Harnessing Student Power to Stop Bullying & Violence.” Mr. Linney is also the Director of Impact Coaching and Speaking, and is a senior trainer for Community Matters.”
The workshop will be held on Wednesday, October 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in the Oak Ridge 9th Grade campus LGI room. Light snacks will be provided, and parents will receive an information packet at the door. Free child care will be available for K-8th grade students. It is requested that parents RSVP to Kim LeJeune by October 25th, so they plan properly plan accommodations.
The Safe School Ambassador program is in its second year at Oak Ridge High School. This unique program teaches students essential skills in observation, intervention, negotiation, reporting and referral. It emphasizes core values of integrity, honesty and responsibility. Safe School Ambassador is empowering students with these skills to diffuse and de-escalate volatile situations. 40 new Ambassadors are chosen each year by teachers and administration as leaders among their peers, then equipped with these life skills. The program has proven to be extremely successful and will be impacting all our kids and the community.