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Community task force works to put an end to bullying in District 302

ELBURN – Chris Halsey, born and raised in Elburn, said he was bullied as a kid growing up, and his son also was bullied.

Halsey was one of 11 people at a meeting of the Knights Against Bullying at the Town and Country Public Library on Tuesday in Elburn to discuss a Kindness Campaign as part of their anti-bullying work in Kaneland School District 302.

“I realize things have changed now, but there is one thing that everybody has failed to change – and that’s the bully,” Halsey said. “The bully still separates his victim from the pack and attacks. And if you think you’re going to be able to talk the bully out of it, it’s impossible.”

A member of the Elburn Lions Club and a community volunteer, Halsey said he and his son handled the bullying “the old-fashioned way.”

“I was punched probably 20 times; I hit this guy once, it was over,” Halsey said. “My son was punched probably 30 times. He swung at this guy, the guy ducked. It was over. So [who] gets the worst of it? The victim, always. But if you don’t confront the bully with something besides being a squealer … you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Toward that end, Halsey said, the Lions will have a two-day Safety Camp for children ages 7 to 10 in August at Lions Park, and he is in charge of the bullying part.

“I’m going to work with teamwork,” Halsey said. “If a [kid] sees his friend being bullied, they need to create as much commotion as possible, not physical, but stop the bullying and get the teachers over there to do something.”

In addition to Knights Against Bullying members, representatives of other groups came to the meeting to talk about how they could partner and expand the anti-bullying efforts. 

Leigh Ann Reusche, a member of Knights Against Bullying, said the Kindness Campaign 2013 is not just meant to work against bullying, but to welcome students to participate in acts of kindness.

“Our intent was to bring together the organizations and people that work in our community and really talk about the good works our youth are doing,” Reusche said. “And focus on kindness and the positive things that are happening around Kaneland.”

Reusche said she and another parent – and Knights Against Bullying member Leanne Gramely – spent a lot of time in the community talking to people since forming a task force last year.

“What we realized was, it was more about being kind,” Reusche said. “What would be the best message to get out there is one of kindness and one of acceptance of individual people. ... But we felt that kindness was something everyone could get their head around. So we’ve asked you to join us and make something [in] October for Kaneland and the Kaneland area.”

Others at the meeting were Ingrid Ramos – mother of three Kaneland students and a member of Changing Children’s World Foundation, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization that focuses on empathy-based violence prevention – along with the organization’s executive director, Kimberly Svevo-Cianci, who is the former executive director of the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. 

Also participating were Kaneland High School Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin, Harter Middle School Assistant Principal Britt Mattern and Shannan Harley of the Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois Council.

Also there were Aimee Fox of Sugar Grove, who was looking to involve Cub Scouts; Brenda Johnson, who encouraged Rachel’s Challenge as a program to promote kindness; Cindy Krause, looking to involve Boy Scouts; and Renee Dee, a parent and the service unit manager for Kaneland Girl Scouts area. Dee and Johnson also are members of Knights Against Bullying.

Rachel’s Challenge stems from the murder of Rachel Joy Scott at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Johnson explained that Rachel’s parents found their daughter’s journals, inspired by Anne Frank, and put together a program based on who their daughter was.

“They found a paper she wrote, kind of her philosophy on life,” Johnson said. “ ‘One simple act of kindness will start a chain reaction.’ ”

Johnson said there would be two kids’ presentations and an adult presentation in October of Rachel’s Challenge.

Several parents noted that their children had been bullied, which heightened their interest in prevention.

McFarlin said she is the parent of a sophomore, and helped start the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

“[The alliance] is doing a lot of work with getting into the culture and climate of all of our students,” McFarlin said. “And we do a lot of programming for acceptance and recognition and celebration of all students. I also work closely with PODA, which is Prevention of Dangerous Activities, at the high school. We are taking on the Yellow Ribbon Week, a full week of bullying prevention activities … in February.”

Harley said the Girl Scouts have programs that address the way girls bully, especially middle school girls.

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