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Addressing a growing issue in schools

August 24, 2018

Seventh-grader Joel Medina fell victim to bullying growing up and was so moved by a visiting speaker, he attended his talk twice in one day.

Medina, who attends Schuyler Middle School, said a lot of the information provided by Fabian Ramirez, school assembly speaker and trainer, could help him cope with bullying while helping other victims in the process.

“I think (bullying) happens on a daily basis,” said attendee Marissa Stoklasa, who is the nursing supervisor at CHI Schuyler. “We get kids occasionally who are having a hard time for different reasons and sometimes bullying is the cause of that.”

Ramirez visited Schuyler Middle School on Aug. 16 during the school’s first student assembly of the school year and held the second session in the evening at 6:30 p.m., which was catered for parents. His presentation included social and emotional techniques to help students, parents and faculty have positive relationships.

Ramirez, who said he was also a victim of bullying, said many individuals misidentify bullying as conflict, teasing and mean moments when each incident is different. He said bullying is when a person or a group of people intentionally hurt another person emotionally and physically on purpose. He added it showcases an unequal balance of power and occurs on a regular basis.

“No one should lay their hands on your kids,” said Ramirez, noting it be reported as a physical assault case.

Ramirez advised parents to pay close attention to their children’s days and document such occurrences to track how often it happens, which makes it easier to identify if it’s a case of bullying.

He said when students don’t feel safe going to school because of the actions of others action needs to be taken.

As a parent, Ramirez understands how tough it is for parents to make their children talk about their school days, especially when they are victims of bullying. They tend to give short and vague answers, he said.

When students don’t talk much about school at home, Ramirez said it should be a red flag that something is wrong.

“When you can’t get information out of your kid, it’s frustrating,” Ramirez said. “When students don’t talk out, they act out.”

Instead, Ramirez said parents should ask open-ended questions like, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your day?” and “What were some of the aspects of your day that made you rate it a two out of nine?”

Ramirez said children will showcase their emotions through nonverbal cues and parents should be able to be able to pick up the message.

With communication comes trust, he said, and it’s important for parents to build that connection with their children.

“Nobody knows your kids like you do,” he said. “Kids want to connect.”

This was one of the biggest “aha” moment for several of the parents in attendance, including Stoklasa.

Ramirez said bullying stems from a vicious cycle because “hurt people, hurt people.” He noted bullies are commonly victims who failed to receive help and chose to transfer their pain to someone else.

Growing up, Ramirez said one of his biggest regrets is failing to report to anyone about the group who bullied and assaulted him. He was afraid it could jeopardize the safety of himself and his family, which is one of the main reasons victims choose to remain silent, he added.

“People don’t say anything because they don’t want anyone to get in trouble,” he said.

Ramirez said victims should move forward with the mindset that by making reports, it could help the bully get help, instead of getting him or her into trouble.

“It takes all of us – students, parents, everyone – working together,” he said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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