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Panelist: Bullying must be addressed

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Several residents attended the Bullskin Township Neighborhood Watch meeting on Tuesday to learn more about bullying and how to combat it.

Watch-group member Edwin Zylka questioned panelists who included Heath Randolph, chief for the Fayette County Juvenile Probation Office; Cale White, deputy chief for the Fayette County Juvenile Probation Office; Chris Harbaugh, a teacher at Mt. Carmel Christian School; and Dan Krofcheck, principal of Southmoreland High School.

White said bullying occurs in every social setting in which an individual or individuals attempt to establish a hierarchy.

“A child attempts to reach a higher status through physical means, whereas adults can use finances or their job position to reach it,” he said.

Krofcheck said bullying has existed in some form and to some level throughout the years, but it has become more prevalent with the continued introduction of new technology and social media.

“Face-to-face bullying is very rare compared to online bullying these days,” he said.

Don Witt, a former teacher with the Connellsville Area School District, explained his program on violence prevention. He offers a R.A.D. (resisting aggression defensively) kids' safety program.

Three rules taught in his program:

• No one has the right to hurt you.

• You don't have the right to hurt anyone else unless they are hurting you.

• You have every right to defend yourself; if someone hurts you, it's not your fault, and it's OK to tell someone.

Witt said that good-natured teasing turns into bullying when the person on the receiving end no longer is having fun.

Krofcheck said there is no fail-safe way to address the bullying issue. He said education is the key.

“What it comes down to is education and awareness as parents and as a community. It's our personal responsibility to teach our children that there are consequences to our actions,” he said.

A few parents and guardians present on Tuesday night wanted to let the others know that bullying does happen and that sometimes it's hard to get a response from school officials when parents' concerns are expressed.

Shirley Rosenberger, a clerk with Carnegie Free Library, said sometimes parents wonder what else they possibly could do because nothing ever seems to punish bullies.

“These days children are spoiled, and they bully their parents into getting what they want — and that just carries over to their peers,” she said. “In our society today, reality shows are everywhere, and there's always friction or someone arguing on those shows. Our children are learning about bullying on television.”

Gregory Martray, a guidance counselor at Connellsville Area High School, sent Zylka some responses to his questions through email. Martray was unable to attend.

Zylka said Martray listed several actions that a parent can take if they believe their child is a bullying victim.

Persistence is the key. Parents should intervene immediately, separate the kids involved, stay calm, model respectful behavior when they intervene, don't ignore the problem and don't force other children to say publicly what they saw.

The next neighborhood-watch meeting will be held 7 p.m. May 28 in Pennsville Baptist Church Education Center.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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