By IAN TULLY
---- — PLATTSBURGH — David Hendrie did not know why he got taunted on the bus, but he knew that it hurt.
A young girl had called him “gay,” and the Keeseville Elementary School student, wondered if it was because he sang in chorus.
Rather than keep those thoughts inside, he chose to tell his principal he had been bullied and that he did not like it.
“I don’t like it, and I don’t want to be a part of it,” he told a crowd of parents, faculty and community members at the recent Bullying Prevention Workshop at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Hendrie’s remarks were part of a presentation by Students Against Violence Everywhere, or SAVE, at the event. A total of 17 student members of SAVE, from Beekmantown Middle School and Keeseville Elementary School, gave their individual interpretations about how to spot, prevent and end bullying.
“I joined SAVE to stop it in my school,” Hendrie said.
TURNED TO PRINCIPAL
The second-annual Bullying Prevention Workshop was hosted by Safe Schools Healthy Students, an organization devoted to ending bullying and encouraging student achievement.
Guest speakers included police, members of the media, teachers and students.
Keeseville Elementary Principal Kevin Hulbert, who facilitated the workshop, said he can personally remember being bullied in high school and that, too often, schools accepted the actions of bullies and allowed the harassment to go on.
Hendrie had turned to Hulbert about the student who called him gay, and Hulbert made sure to talk to both students and defuse the situation. The sixth-graders reconciled their differences and have since been getting along.
As co-chair of the Bullying Task Force, Hulbert said his job is to educate and inform the community about bullying. He said advances in technology, such as the use of social media and cellphones, have led to an increase in cyber-bullying among young people.
The issue must be addressed, he said.
“Everyone plays a role in setting a positive message.”
‘MUST FEEL SAFE’
Having the students speak at the workshop was the brainchild of Hulbert and Bill King, a counselor at Beekmantown Middle School; both men thought their students did a great job.
Wanda McQueen, project administrator of Safe Kids Healthy Schools, said it is important to make children aware of bullying at a young age so they can stop being bystanders or victims and end a destructive cycle.
“If you want to increase student achievement, students must feel safe in school,” she said.
The Task Force is part of Champlain Valley Education Services and is funded by a federal grant.
McQueen said the project has made progress educating children in the North Country about the dangers of bullying. The Task Force holds events such as a video contest that encouraged students to use their imagination to make creative anti-bullying videos that were screened and judged at Cumberland 12 Cinemas in Plattsburgh.
McQueen said the Task Force will continue to hold events like the workshop until all students, parents and school boards in the North Country understand the damage that bullying can cause in the minds of young people.
Even if he was bullied because he belongs to the school chorus, Hendrie said, he likes to sing and won’t stop if he gets called names.
Classmates tell him he is a really good singer. He will play Jiminy Cricket in Beekmantown’s upcoming production of “Ever After,” a comic musical about famous fairy tales.
He said he can’t wait.