Standing up to bullying at Molly Ockett

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

STANDING UP TO BULLYING AT MOMS — The Molly Ockett Middle School Civil Rights Team helped facilitate a presentation on "Standing Up to Bullying" by Brandon Baldwin of the Maine Attorney General's Office March 30. Back row, from left, are: Katherine Carpenter, HayLee Mulligan, Brandon Baldwin, Mariah Magee, Allison Manoogian. Middle row, from left: Gavin Smith, Elise Richardson, Chase Carus, Clayton Thurston, Olivia Pelkie, Garrett Libby. Front row, from left: Lily Purslow, Madison Burke, Kris Vladkya, Tabby Day.

FRYEBURG — Stand up to bullying and other biased behaviors — safely and non-confrontationally!

That's the message left with students at Molly Ockett Middle School last week by a representative from the Maine Attorney General's Office Civil Rights Team Project.

Brandon Baldwin of the Attorney General's Office came to MOMS March 30, as part of the Stand Up to Bullying program he has facilitated at 15 schools across Maine, so far — and they include students of all ages — from elementary to middle to high school.

"The message is not primarily bullying," Baldwin said. "The focus of Stand Up to Bullying Week is not bullying — it's more about standing up appropriately to bullying and things other than bullying."

"My Number One objective is to support the work of a school's Civil Rights Team," Baldwin stated. "Again, this message is more about standing up. They all know bullying is bad — the approach we take is trying to understand how to deal with biased behaviors like bullying."

Sadly, bullying by students in parts of the country has led to the suicide of some of those being bullied. And this week, a new, controversial documentary entitled, "Bully" by Lee Hirsch hits theaters. It documents true stories of students who faced horrific forms of bullying that are, tragically, becoming prevalent across our nation.

Baldwin emphasizes the need to "continue the conversation" around bullying and other biased behaviors.

"The important part is that we continue to have conversations about standing up — and not just why it is important — but how come it's so hard to do," Baldwin said. "Kids need to have opportunities to keep talking about their experiences as bystanders and witnesses" to biased behaviors like bullying, he said.

"It's very hard to stand up"

"Too often, we take the approach of lecturing about how a bystander should speak up and stand up to bullying," said Baldwin. "But, it's very hard to stand up."

Baldwin said the single message of stand up to bullying can sometimes "initialize feelings of guilt and shame" in those who don't do it for fear of their own safety or retribution. Yet, there are different and effective ways to "stand up" to biased behavior like bullying and that is what the Civil Rights Team Project is all about — sharing those methods with one another.

"We talk about why it's hard, and we learn about strategies to use," to stand up appropriately, Baldwin stated. "We learn a safer and easier approach to standing up to that something or someone — a way of bypassing obstacles."

Adults can help

"There is a real value in adults sharing their experiences in facing biased behaviors and for the kids to see that it's not that easy (to stand up)," said Baldwin. "Again, the purpose of this Civil Rights Team Project and its message is about how to reduce biased behaviors."

Students' comments

Here are comments written by Molly Ockett Middle School students after attending the half-day assembly and workshop March 30 on Standing Up to Bullying facilitated by the Maine Attorney General's Office Civil Rights Team Project:

• "I learned that bullying is usually influenced by others. I always knew it was, but it never clicked. Bullying has always been a big thing to me and I always try to stand up for it and influence others. Mr. Baldwin made me think differently about bullying and I hope it changes everyone."

• "I thought that was a very informative assembly. It really made me think about how I should stand up for others. I will now keep my eye out for bullying in this school and try to stop it. I hope that it affects other students as much as it affected me. It really has opened my eyes how other people influence you."

• "I found the presentation to be very well done. It was very heartfelt. To lecture us that bullying is bad is not enough. It is best to teach kids what they can do. I will always keep in mind what was said."

• "Usually these bullying talks are just an hour of listening to something I already know about. This one really has gotten me thinking."

• "I found this presentation to be interesting and meaningful. Unlike other speakers, Mr. Baldwin really connects with us. It's not just the "bullying is bad" speech. It was more than that. I now understand the psychology behind it all and I know why it is hard to stand up and what I have to do to help."

• "I hate it when my friend or people I know get bullied and it's sad to see people bully. It shows that they are the weak ones because they have to put people down so they can feel important."

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