New York Youth “Stop Bullying and Speak Up” at Hofstra University

Published on Long Island Report

“I’ve seen bullying.”

“If there is a bully, it [anti-bullying conference] really helps because you know what to do now and you don’t have to be afraid—you can just reach out and help them.”

“I’ve learned to speak up,”

These were remarks made by some of the more than 200 children from four different elementary schools in New York who attended an anti-bullying conference at Hofstra University on Friday, Oct. 25.

The event, using the slogan “stop bullying; speak up,” was intended to educate children on the dangers of student harassment.

Children show off artwork at Hofstra's ant-bullying conference

Children show off artwork at Hofstra’s anti-bullying conference
LIR Photo Credit: Jeanine Russaw

North Shore LIJ Medical Center contacted Hofstra’s radio station, WRHU, and worked in tandem with the university to create a place for the students to engage.

A chief organizer of the conference and an adjunct professor at Hofstra’s Department of Rhetoric, Charlene Sanders, made appearances at each presentation.

“Today’s conference is also based around a dream,” Sanders said. “The dream of Dr. Wells—from North Shore LIJ— in wanting to do something to combat bullying.”

Understanding the issue

One session of fifth grade students addressed the new weapons of student harassment, cyber bullying.

“I feel many of our students are using many different internet facilities such as Facebook,” said Christine Taylor, fifth grade teacher at Northern Parkway Elementary School. “As a teacher, that worries me because that is out of our control.” Many faculty in attendance echoed Taylor’s concern.

After teaching for 17 years, Jo Schoonmaker has seen situations of taunting parallel to the examples outlined by the conference. She says the event brought “a reality” to her students.

Volunteers at the event stressed the importance of addressing bullying. Sophomore Jen Karasik got involved under the advisement of Sanders, and feels that bullying is a part of any child’s life.”You always want to make a difference in people’s lives. Especially young kids, because it starts that young,” Karasik said of the conference’s impact.

Each presentation lasted an hour and a half and was interactive. Kids were asked questions that prompted them to think about the effect bullying has on their peers.

Making a difference

After the end of the first half of the sessions, three girls walked the hallways recounting the tales of the last speaker they heard, and addressing a group targeted by bullies in their school: members of the LGBTQ community.

“People who are gay are afraid to admit it because they are afraid they will get teased,” one girl said.

“I didn’t stand up for my classmates before, but I will now,” said another girl.

Spoken word presenter Peter Volatti worked with students who have been affected by bullying, but he’s also worked with bullies themselves.

“I made them understand that it [bullying] is an awful thing to do to someone,” Volatti said. “Especially when the child can hurt themselves or even worse, commit suicide.”

The conference was seen as effective by both the event’s organizers and those who attended. There are plans between North Shore LIJ and Hofstra for more anti-bullying campaigns and informational sessions in subsequent years.

Written by: Jeanine Russaw on November 1, 2013.
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