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Discussion confronts bullying

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education River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A group of seven sponsors arranged to bring a special presenter 7-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, to the public library (downstairs) for a free talk called: "Who's the Target? The broad impact of bullying and action steps for communities and schools."

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High school Principal Elaine Baumann has seen the program and says it reminds people of how bullying can significantly hurt lives.

She said speaker Brian Juchems is from the Madison area and works with the Gay-Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. The organization's mission is to be "a public benefit organization committed to safe middle schools and high schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youths and all students."

Baumann said the presentation teaches the importance of setting limits and that bullying isn't OK. It shows how bullying can come in many shapes and forms, early and in adult life.

The discussion also relates many different groups to each other, for examples: Kids, communities, adults.

The talk will help some answer the question, "What can I do?"

Baumann says about the problem, "It isn't just in high school."

She's received calls from people affected by bullying and has found herself counseling people on both sides. She's seen it affect individuals, schools, families, communities.

Baumann praises the sponsors for putting something together: Gay-Straight Alliance for Safe Schools; the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice center; the UW-River Falls Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and the River Falls School District; Diversity Committee; public library; and police department.

She says the state Department of Public Instruction has increased attention to keeping kids safe and encouraging diversity. Juchems will also speak at a school district in-service day and to the high school group Students Offering Support.

Part of what he does is help people learn how to intervene when bullying occurs.

"Often if you stand back and don't do anything, it continues," said Baumann.

Many people are afraid of making the bullying worse by reporting it, but she says there are effective ways to deal with it. She emphasizes the importance of reporting it since a bully who gets away with it will only feel more empowered.

Baumann admits it can be a fine line to judge bullying, as some of it depends on how the behavior is perceived.

The principal used toilet papering as an example. It can be good natured and mean "you're accepted," or it can be mean spirited and in some cases, cause lasting damage.

"Bullying can have some very sad and unintended consequences," said Baumann.

She said adults in the community are a resource. They can intervene and answer the behavior with consequences, a police citation or some punishment.

Baumann confirms this type of negative behavior can have an adverse affect on someone's life. She said parents often call because kids are wounded and the family's hurting.

She thinks "that's bad" for a student to be traumatized just by going to classes.

Baumann thinks the program will be good and a worthwhile topic for parents, kids and really anyone to learn more about. It would be a benefit to increase the number of people who not only recognize harassment or bullying but also know how to prevent it.

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