Conference Arms Educators to Fight Bullying

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 In partnership with the AFT, New York State United Teachers put together a regional conference Nov. 14 in Albany on how to stop bullying. The 225 schoolteachers, PSRPs, administrators and higher education representatives who attended took away useful strategies to apply in their schools.

The conference started with a showing of the Southern Poverty Law Center's new video, "Bullied," which chronicles the brutality Jamie Nabozny faced starting in middle school, and his eventual triumph in the courts. The film was followed by a dynamic keynote address by Nabozny. There were many tears during his talk, and many questions afterward.

Conference workshops did not just emphasize the bullied, but also provided a better understanding of children who bully and focused on how educators are responsible for helping and educating these students, especially because the line often is blurred between the bullies and the bullied.

A major component of the conference dealt with the topic of bystanders, which also came up during the question-and-answer session when Nabozny talked about his recent conversation with a former high school classmate. She, like others, witnessed his harassment but, like many bystanders, didn't intervene. She also happened to be the head cheerleader who was dating the captain of the football team. A few months ago—20 years after their graduation—she apologized to Nabozny for failing to stand up for him. Her motivation in reaching out, however, was not entirely selfless. She now has a gay 13-year-old who is relentlessly harassed by his peers. Nabozny uses this story to vividly illustrate the responsibility of bystanders.

Joselo Lucero, the brother of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant murdered three years ago in Patchogue, N.Y., ended the conference with a message of hope based on his work in schools educating children about prejudice. He stressed that every person has a responsibility toward others, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference.

The NYSUT website has a longer story on the "See a Bully, Stop a Bully: Make a Difference" conference, which drew attendees from several states. More information on the AFT's national anti-bullying campaign is available online.

AFT leaders are planning several training and awareness events about bullying, including one this March hosted by the ABC Federation of Teachers near Long Beach, Calif. This will be the California affiliate's second anti-bullying conference focusing on students. [Lee Cutler, Annette Licitra]

November 17, 2011