Oct 1, 2010 9:26 PM by Ariel Wesler
The circumstance surrounding the suicide of a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey has pushed the dangers of bullying and cyber-bullying back into the national spotlight.
As part of the ongoing goal of raising awareness, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley held a workshop today at Santa Maria High School to engage students and teach tolerance.
Pointing the finger at stereotypes, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley invited around 90 kids from Santa Maria High School to participate in a program called "Respecting You, Respecting Me."
"A lot of people are opening up. I've seen a lot of tears," said 10th Grader Ulices Guzman
"A lot of times in schools, people form cliques, groups and sometimes they don't step out of those groups, based on peer pressure," said Jay Allen with Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley.
"If you look around, you have kids that you would never here together talking," Guzman said.
During one excercise, coordinators placed stereotypes on the backs of students. Each person then had to guess how they were labeled based on clues. Even councilwoman Alice Patino joined the discussion.
Outreach consultants and counselors identified some of the high risk kids they felt could benefit from this program.
"It's ok to raise your hand and say, I'm struggling can you help me out," Allen said.
Coordinators say reaching these kids early and often is the best chance they have to stop the bullying.
"You learn to say all these hurtful words and you never even realize the effect of them," one girl said.
Experts say three out of four students are bullied or cyberbullied and experience some kind of physical, mental, or emotional abuse. Sadly, over half those incidents go unreported.
The five states with the highest incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying are California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
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