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Staring down the bully

February 04, 2004

Gary Moskowitz

A group of 64 sixth-graders fell silent when author SuEllen Fried

told the students why she came to their school to talk about

bullying.

Fried, sitting alone on the auditorium stage at Wilson Middle

School on Tuesday, explained to the students that all it took was one

student who had been teased by other students to change her life.

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The student was a recovering cancer patient who told Fried that

she dreaded returning to school after finishing chemotherapy

treatments because other students made fun of her for having lost her

hair, and would pull off her wig and laugh.

"I have never recovered from that conversation," Fried said. "It

occurred to me that if kids could be that cruel, I wanted to know

why."

Fried is presenting a "Bullying Prevention and Intervention:

Saving Our Children's Lives" convention this week for students and

adults. She spoke with students at Wilson and Chamlian Armenian

School on Tuesday morning, then spoke with educators at the YWCA of

Glendale. Her visit is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Medical

Assn. Alliance, the Glendale Sunrise Rotary Club and the

Atwater-Silverlake Rotary Club.

Fried and her daughter, Paula, are co-authors of "Bullies and

Victims: Helping Your Child Through the Schoolyard Battlefield"

(1996) and "Bullies, Targets and Witnesses: Helping Children Break

the Pain Chain" (2003).

Fried's main goal Tuesday was to get students to be more aware of

how to stop bullying by talking about their personal experiences.

She asked the group of Wilson students to define four categories

of bullying -- physical, verbal, emotional and sexual.

Students defined physical bullying as punching, kicking, throwing

someone in a trash can and flicking rubber bands. Verbal bullying

includes name-calling and rumors, students said.

Students said ignoring people or rolling one's eyes at them are

all forms of emotional bullying, and sexual bullying includes any

type of sexual harassment, they said.

Verbal is the most common form of bullying, and sexual bullying is

the form of bullying people most want to avoid, students told Fried.

"Not all people that bully people do it because they don't like

somebody," said Natalie Pempetjian, 11. "It's because they don't have

anyone to talk to or anywhere to vent their anger to, so they turn

their anger onto someone else."

Christel Trink, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at an area

private school, plans to train co-workers on bully prevention based

on what she learns from Fried this week.

"I don't see bullying much, but I think teachers often don't

observe it," Trink said. "I think it's probably a problem in every

school, but maybe we can eliminate the ignorance about it by talking

about it."

For information about today's and Thursday's sessions, call event

organizers at 507-0427.

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