"I think we need to do whatever we can to help kids be safe, and to be as successful as possible at school," said Chillicothe High School Principal Brian Sherrow on Monday. Sherrow's school is hosting one of four programs taking place today (Tuesday) and Wednesday, titled "Stand for the Silent," regarding bullying. CHS' program is at 8:50 a.m., Wednesday, in the Gary Dickinson Performing Arts Center.
"Bullying is such an individualized thing," Sherrow said, from an administrator's standpoint. "You have to look at each individual situation. It's a delicate line to walk. You have to do what is fair to all parties.
"It's hard to put a policy in place that says 'if bullying is taking place, this happens.' Even the accused have their rights."
"People think of bullying as physical," said Tawnya Jones, executive director of Livingston County C2000 and the Coalition for Cultural Awareness — both of which are sponsoring the aforementioned programs. "The verbal and psychological [bullying] leaves scars."
Sherrow agreed with this point, stating that while he doesn't think that the number of bullying instances has necessarily increased of late, instead, things like Facebook and other social media outlets have increased the number of methods by which bullying can take place.
"Now, you hit 'send,' and everyone knows about it," he said. "Oftentimes, kids are clueless as to when they've hurt someone else's feelings."
Sherrow said that he believes that media sensationalism has brought bullying to the public forefront more so nation-wide, to both positive and negative results.
"[Bullying is] a national — I won't say epidemic; it's more in our focus, and something that the media can jump on. It sells.
"For me, personally, what I'd like the kids to learn [during the Wednesday program] are some coping mechanisms," Sherrow added. "To not turn [what they are experiencing] inwards on themselves — that they have the ability to stand up for themselves. I think so often, bullying assemblies focus so much on the offender that the victims fall by the wayside. If the bully is really intent on doing it, they're not going to listen. You've got to learn coping mechanisms to get through some of the natural parts of being a kid."
"Respect for each other [is what I want those attending the programs to learn]," Jones said, "and the fact that it's not okay to bully anyone. It's a whole community issue. Bullying is a big issue here."
"Stand for the Silent" — the program (also known as SFTS), put on by Kirk Smalley — was started in 2010 by a group of students from the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Upward Bound Chapter, and focuses upon Smalley's son, Ty Field-Smalley, who committed suicide at the age of 11 after being suspended from school for retaliating against a student who had been bullying him for over two years. The program is a platform for the Smalley family to share their story and offer education and tools they hope will prevent similar tragedies from happening to another child, or within another family.
Page 2 of 2 - Jones said that she had been in direct talks with Kirk Smalley for over a year now about bringing his program to Chillicothe.
"Kirk does everything for free," she said. "He just asks for a freewill donation."
Jones said a donation of $500 was made for the Chillicothe visit, which was originally allotted for three days, but had to be cut back to two due to scheduling conflicts. That price is nearly 1/4 of the cost of last year's anti-bullying assembly, held in late March, and put on by the Megan Meier Foundation.
"They pulled some strings to get [us] in this early," she said.
SFTS took place at Southwest Livingston County R-1, Ludlow, on Tuesday morning. A second Tuesday program will take place at the Chillicothe Comfort Inn and Suites, beginning at 6 p.m., and is "for the community," per Jones.
As previously mentioned, the Chillicothe High School will be hosting "Stand for the Silent" on Wednesday morning (Jan. 9). This will be followed by an afternoon presentation at the Chillicothe Middle School, beginning at 1 p.m.