Bullying takes its toll

Three-day event unites community stakeholders in addressing antagonistic behavior in schools and online.

January 13, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
(Raul Roa )

Robynn Leidig on Wednesday stood in front of a classroom of seventh-graders at Toll Middle School as their raised hands began to paint an all too common picture of verbal, cyber, emotional and sexual bullying.

Leidig, a health educator with Planned Parenthood, then began outlining ways to appropriately respond, including notifying a trusted adult.

"I think it is good that teachers come to say, 'It is OK, we are with you, don't be afraid,'" said Toll seventh grader Dianna Sukiasyan, 12.

The lesson, which was taking place in several classrooms throughout the school, also served as a training opportunity for school officials and community leaders on how to recognize and react to antagonistic behavior.

It was the culmination of a three-day anti-bullying program, spearheaded by Bully Me Not, a community organization established last year to address bullying. Thirty-one teachers, counselors and community members received training from SuEllen Fried, a nationally recognized bullying expert, skills they put to the test at Toll on Wednesday.


"It gives you more confidence…if it ever happens again," Toll seventh-grader Angel Acosta said of the tools he learned during the class.

Bullying has emerged as a national issue following several high-profile incidents. Early last year, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince hanged herself after allegedly being bullied at her South Hadley, Mass., high school. And in September, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off a bridge, allegedly because his Rutgers University roommate streamed a romantic encounter with a male friend live on the Internet.

Glendale Unified has not been immune to allegations of bullying at its school sites. In October, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a decision stating the district had "failed to provide a prompt and equitable response" to allegations of sexual harassment lodged in 2007 by a then-Crescenta Valley High School student. In her complaint, the student alleged that she been the target of repeated and aggressive sexual taunting by schoolmates on the Internet and at school.

Glendale Unified Supt. Richard Sheehan said the district takes all allegations of bullying seriously and is constantly working to improve policies. He described the decision from the Office for Civil Rights as a "learning opportunity," and said the district will work with the federal agency to offer additional training to employees in the coming year.

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