Originally Published: November 7, 2016 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT – As an expecting parent, Stan Goligoski attended an anti-bullying seminar on Thursday night because he wants to know how to respond if his son or daughter is bullied.
The advice he felt was most compelling was this defense: “look them in the eye and stand tall.”
Rhonda Orr, founder and head of Rhonda’s Stop Bullying Foundation, hosted a program titled “Civility for a New Generation” for school district and community members at Granite Mountain School that revolved around a “Triangle of Triumph” and her latest concept titled, “Why Not?”
The “Why Not” is the lofty notion that Prescott can become not only “Everybody’s Hometown” but the city known as the most civil in the nation, a place with the least amount of bullying at any age.
A lofty goal? Perhaps.
Orr and other district leaders say they are committed to confronting the issue head-on so that Prescott can be a place where the bullied, and those who bully, are taught new ways to relate to the people in their world, be it fellow students, co-workers or a corporate boss.
Abia Judd Elementary School Principal Clark Tenney said this program is one of a number of efforts the district has taken to address bullying so that it is a rare occurrence.
Unfortunately, bullying has become a national buzzword confused with deeds that are simply unkind, or is the diagnosis when personalities clash and students, or adults, are in conflict, said Tenney and other school leaders.
Bullying is a power play, and is not just the occasional unkind word or deed, but rather a systematic attack on someone else, be it physical or emotional, according to experts.
What school faculty, parents and students all need to know is how to discern between the typical conflicts children, teens and adults will encounter over their lifespan and bullying that can deflate a person’s spirit or, in worst case scenarios, can lead to mental health ailments and violence.
On one of Orr’s slides was a statistic that states 160,000 students every day in this nation stay home from school for fear of bullies.
In his school, Tenney said when there are conflicts between students, or bullying behavior of any kind, faculty step in immediately to discern what has occurred, and diffuse it so that repeat offenses do not occur.
“I want kids to feel safe and comfortable in school every day,” Tenney said of his message to students when any such issue arises. “Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable.”
In Prescott schools, every staff member is given training related to bullying, and students and parents are advised to report incidents to their teacher, or to the principal, when it occurs so it can be dealt with swiftly. Again, though, Tenney said it is important to differentiate between bullying and age-appropriate conflicts, with bullying something that cannot be tolerated and the other simply has to be tamed.
Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter said there are clear-cut cases of bullying that must be immediately addressed for the health, safety and welfare of students. Yet he, too, suggests that bullying is now over diagnosed without proper interrogation of the parties involved.
What is key is that when students, or adults, cannot resolve ongoing conflicts, they need to seek assistance to work out whatever the problem is so that people can go on about their business.
Orr’s program notes that no one can prevent becoming a victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, but they always have a choice on whether or not to remain a victim.
In many cases, bullies are victims of bullying that stem from deep-rooted feelings of shame and an inability to move beyond a definition someone else has placed upon them. Strong communication, particularly the ability to look someone in the eye and call someone on their bad behavior without anger or argument, are critical to civility, and the defeat of bullies of any age, Orr said.
Orr offers the five C’s as the keys to helping students and others “stand tall” against those who would try and control or define them with their words and actions: Civility, confidence, courage, creativity and carriage.
“There is no shame in being a victim, but you do not have to stay a victim,” Orr said. “Decide to be a survivor. Define yourself.”