ST. CHARLES – In his role as a social worker at Kaneland High School, Patrick Trapp has helped to rework District 302's policies addressing bullying.
That is important, he said, but he said another significant part of the issue is doing all that can be done to assure those who are bullied that their issues are heard and acted upon. Otherwise, he said, those involved can lose faith in the process, and the bullying can go on.
Trapp said such examples can be seen in the documentary "Bully," which is being shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St., Charles. Trapp will lead a question-and-answer session after the movie, which is being presented by the Changing Children's Worlds Foundation. The screening will be free, but the organization is asking for donations of $3 for students and $5 for adults.
In the documentary, there are scenes in which parents of bullied students talk to administrators and leave frustrated about the situation. And Trapp said he's sure that many in the audience will feel as if such a scene is familiar, as he said that happens close to home as well. He said it's important that "we don't minimize the problems and make the victims feel as if they are victimized again by the administration."
Trapp said school districts should understand that really addressing the issue will mean more instances of bullying being reported at first, because that means there are more people who believe enough in the process to document situations that hadn't been addressed previously. The key is to prevent the situation from playing out over and over, he said.
Otherwise, Trapp said, the thought from the bullied is "that if you report it, it's going to actually get worse, and that people are going to think of you as a tattle, or words that you can't print in a newspaper." He said it's important to also treat bullies with respect, because most aren't "classic bullies" who are going to continue to bully, but instead youths who are seeking attention.
"They really just have to have a light shined on them" and to "let them know that the victim has no intention of getting them in trouble. They just want them to know how they feel, and they want it to stop," Trapp said.
Trapp described a difficult situation, in which youths are having to confront the issue of bullying earlier and more often than ever. There are bullying opportunities in social media, cellphones and texting, the bus ride and throughout the school day. Trapp said District 302 has taken "dramatic" steps to address bullying, but he said more must be done. He said there is no room for "old-school" thinking.
"There is still too much of an old-school approach to a problem that needs fresh ideas, and the old-school approach is very prevalent in the movie 'Bully,' " Trapp said, adding that those who dismiss bullying incidents "don't really make the victim feel secure in reporting it."