Anti Bullying Coalition debuts to community
"Is there a bullying problem in Park City," Park City resident B.J. Dingman turned to ask his granddaughter. He pointed to the dozens of parents, teachers and students in neon-colored, anti-bullying t-shirts leading the Miner’s Day Parade.
It was a simple question, one person on a crowded Main Street. But it was the question that Treasure Mountain Junior High School Vice Principal Kevin McIntosh was hoping parade spectators would ask. As one of the founding members of the Park City School District Anti-Bullying Coalition, McIntosh is trying to raise awareness of the community-wide program to stop bullying in and out of schools. In his opinion, one child being bullied is too many.
"Our goal is to eliminate bullying completely," he said, "to have a culture in our community and our schools where bullying is not tolerated. being in the parade, people can see it’s not just a school effort, it’s a community effort."
More than 100 anti-bullying supporters gathered at the top of Swede Alley to lead the parade. Parents with children in tow, clusters of teachers discussing the first days of school and teenagers maneuvering through the crowds toward friends all donned the same t-shirts. But the coalition extends beyond the schools, incorporating community partners such as the Park City Police Department, the Peace House, Equality Utah and the People’s Health Clinic as a way to spread the word, McIntosh said.
"We’re taking a unified approach to stop bullying," he added, "and the goal of this event is awareness."
The coalition got its start after a Salt Lake City councilman first brought the film to the attention of Utah educators in spring, prompting Park City parents and educators to begin a discussion that led to creating the coalition.
"It was like lighting a fire that just took off," said Tania Knauer, a Park City parent and fellow-founding member of the coalition. "We have great partners already, but this event is our coming out party to the community. This is where everyone in Park City can see that there is an anti-bullying campaign."
The program is focused on informing students and the community about what bullying looks like and how to stop it. Student leaders at Treasure Mountain Junior High School have already joined the discussion, and more schools are quickly taking up the cause in hopes of impacting what happens in their hallways.
"I don’t see much physical bullying," said Tommy Brown, the Park City High School student body president, "but I see small stuff, something like when a kid drops their books and no one helps them."
Kathy Meyer, a parent of three students in the Park City School District, works in the mental health profession and said she had a unique view of bullying at its worst.
"It can be a very subtle thing," Meyers said. "No child should be sitting alone in a lunchroom or feel left out on the playground. Bullying has affected every child, every person really. At some point, we were all left out and felt the pain of being rejected."
"People are not going to stand for bullying, and as a community, we have the resources to address it," she added.
The newly-formed coalition will host events all year for students and the community, starting with Monday’s parade. Working with Salt Lake schools, the coalition will host events together such as out a screening of the documentary film "Bully" which will be shown to more than 10,000 Utah middle school students.
Even second grader Rachael Haerter was aware of the impact bullying has had on her and her friends.
"Bullying isn’t very nice," Haerter said. " I don’t want anyone hurt."
Her mother Muggins Haerter added to the thought.
"Good or bad, whether it is a kid who is the bully or the kid being bullied, we need to tell children how important it is to be kind and not try to manipulate another person," she said.
The next Anti-Bullying Coalition community meeting will be held at Treasure Mountain Middle School Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Author Ryan Smithson will speak Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Large Lecture Hall at Park City High School on his book, "Ghosts of War," which documents his experiences as 19-year-old soldier in Iraq. The event is free and open to the public. The Park City Film Series will also host a free screening of "Bully," the documentary that follows the effects of bullying on the victims on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Jim Santy Auditorium located at1255 Park Ave.
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