Howard County Library System held its annual Wednesday night at Howard Community College in Columbia, with a panel of experts talking about bullying in schools and the community.
More than 300 residents, volunteers and students attended the event, alongside Howard County Council members Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball.
Two separate panels gave the audience different perspectives on the topic from bullying, with the first being a panel of seven middle school students from around the county and the second having experts on the topic of bullying and one high school student.
The expert panel included moderator Korva Coleman of NPR; Courtney Macavinta, president of the Respect Institute; Hammond High School Principal Marcy Leonard, author-psychologist Dr. Brad Sachs and Hammond High School junior Adam Albaari.
The student panel included: Jessica Braun from Wilde Lake Middle School; Dhivyan Karunakaran from Mayfield Woods Middle School; Megan Hart, Clarksville Middle School; Kevin Baker, Hammond Middle School; Alexis Stratton-Bratcher, Patuxent Valley Middle School; Devon Bodzion, Wilde Lake Middle School; and Rachel Jacob from Mayfield Woods Middle School.
Here are some the the highlights from the panelists and participants in the Patch live blog that took place during the symposium:
- Devon Bodzion, a WLMS student said, "Sometimes you can't tell when someone [online] is joking or being serious."
- Bodzion received applause when she gave the insightful comment, "In the end, doing what's right is more important than doing what's popular."
- Kevin Baker, a vocal middle schooler, said, "It's hard. It's not like you can just write a letter to the bully and say, 'Dear bully, I don't like what you're doing.'"
- Patch commenter Dona Marshall said, "I see teenagers on my street and it's amazing the stuff that goes one… Parents moving out of their homes because kids are bullying their child, the police constantly on the street… So in a nutshell, I do believe that bullying is a problem in the county!"
- Alexis Stratton-Bratcher, a PVMS student, got chuckles from a crowd of parents after she said, "I know my mom is monitoring me [online], commenting and liking stuff on my Facebook."
- In an unofficial poll taken of Patch readers during the symposium, 67 percent of participants said bullying had a lasting effect on them. No one said he or she had not been bullied and didn't see it as a problem.
- Principal Leonard told the crowd that the shoving-into-locker type of bullying is relatively rare. A lot of bullying is "he said, she said," and in mediation, many kids don't realize it's bullying.
- Adam Albaari touched on the dynamics of high school: "There is an unwritten rule that you can't talk about someone unless you're friends with them. It's almost paradoxical."
- Patch commenter SLC64Dad said, "From my experiences, I would say there are more [bullies today]. It seems that parents of bullies tend to turn a blind eye with the 'Not my child' attitude. That type of attitude just fosters the notion that bullying has no consequence serious enough to make the bully stop."
- Dr. Sachs, speaking about civility in the classroom, had this suggestion: "What if, instead of ranking schools by SAT scores, we ranked them by community service?"