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People share their stories about bullying (video)

Sarah Monson of Rochester speaks at the Post-Bulletin Dialogues community meeting about bullying Tuesday night at John Marshall High School.


Resources against bullying

How to cope with bullying

• Contact teacher and principal.

• Talk to school liaison officer and ask if what happened rises to the level of a crime.

• Contact school superintendent.

• Speak with school board; ask that school policy be changed in ways that make the school environment safer for students.

• File a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education and/or Minnesota Human Rights Commission.

• File a class action lawsuit.

• Contact law enforcement officers or file a police report yourself.

• Switch to a school or district that is more welcoming, or to home school.

• Contact legislators.

• Educate students and teachers about what bullying is and its impact.

• Connect with other affected parents.

• Tell your child to ask, when a negative comment is made, "Did I just hear that? Where did it come from? Who created it?"

• Listen to your kids to learn what they're interested in or concerned about. Try texting them.

• Spend time visiting your child's classroom as a guest.

• Encourage your child to start an anti-bullying peer support group at school, which will probably require a teacher sponsor.


Free, confidential help is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Once the introduction finishes, a person comes on the line.

If you need help to deal with bullying, or want more information, here are some resources:

• Call United Way 211 referral service. Dial 2-1-1 from any landline telephone and describe what you need to get referred to someone who can help.


PACER Center's Kids Against Bullying

The Post-Bulletin Dialogues meeting at John Marshall High School on Tuesday night elicited a variety of stories about bullying in several area school districts.

Bryan Hunt, 45, of Rochester, said his 12-year-old son, Sam, was bullied during his entire sixth-grade year. Sam received a concussion a few weeks ago after being "planked" — one student knelt in front of his son while another pushed him over, Hunt said.

Hunt, a Mayo Clinic administrative assistant, said he's trying to lead by example, seeking to improve himself despite the long-term effects of bullying he endured during high school in Rochester.


Hunt said he was told during the meeting to contact law enforcement about what happened to his son but hadn't done so yet.

Rick Ehmke, of rural Mantorville, whose 13-year-old daughter, Rachel, died by suicide last month, said he had spoken with her about bullying interventions.

"My daughter's last words were, 'Dad, they never did anything. It just got worse,'" he said. He asked why school administrators can't intervene immediately, meet a bully at the school bus and remove that student from the school system.

Schools often cite privacy constraints and decline to comment on specific students' cases. But several audience members suggested parents are left powerless when they report bullying to the school system, the state education department and even law enforcement. Though some school employees try to intervene, some audience members said, bullying isn't seen as a serious-enough problem.

"Why can't they have the power to do something right then and there?" Ehmke asked.

A short while later a woman said she pulled her son out of the same school Rachel went to because of long-term bullying. She said a police officer "interrogated my son" rather than trying to learn about the bullying, and she finally decided to get her son out of the school. He has transferred to another school and was warmly accepted.

"These people are not doing their job, and somebody has to hold them accountable," she said.

Vangie Castro, youth programs education manager for the Diversity Council and one of three panelists at the Dialogues event, said she started an anti-bullying group after "students kept coming to me and telling me how badly they were being bullied." 


One student, she said, regularly ate lunch in the bathroom because it was the only safe place to do so. Castro advocates prevention strategies rather than after-assault intervention by police. Once that point is reached, Castro said, the situation has become far more serious than it should if prevention policies are in place.

"What more do we need than the deaths of young people in our area to convince us that more needs to be done?" Post-Bulletin Managing Editor Jay Furst said. In addition to Ehmke, a Century High School student, Jay'Corey Jones, took his own life this month, and his father said he was subjected to bullying because he was gay.

Furst said the monthly Dialogues meetings this summer will examine bullying. In late June, the focus will be on the long-term emotional and psychological effects of bullying on the victim, offender and witnesses.

"So many of us can relate to this issue because we experienced it as young people ourselves and perhaps still experience it in the work environment," he said.

"I guarantee you," panelist and state Rep. Debra Hilstrom told the audience, "if this many people showed up at a school board meeting and said, 'We want to have a good policy on bullying,' they'd listen to you." Every school board, she said, has the power to put a policy in place — "and they can set the tone."

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