Twin Valley Rotary launching anti-bullying initiative

During the March 6 assembly of the Twin Valley Rotary Club, Rotarian Lee Van Orman presented information on the club’s upcoming anti-bullying initiative, a peace project which the Rotary will unveil at a special March 27 invitee-only evening meeting at the Holiday Inn in Morgantown that will feature guest speaker and founder of Teach Antibullying, Inc., Dr. Claudio Cerullo.

Van Orman, a former elementary school principal and assistant principal, is the chair of the Rotary’s new Anti-Bullying Committee. He is joined on that four-person committee by Twin Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Pleis, Twin Valley Rotary President Les Groves, and former president Adrienne Masak-Rozier.

According to Van Orman, the committee has three stated goals: to upgrade the definition of bullying, and to promote different strategies to handle psychological and emotional bullying, and to sustain the conversation about bullying, as bullying is not going to “go away”. At the core of the club’s anti-bullying initiative is an outreach effort of neo-bullying education for key community members who work with young people, or influence young people within an organization.

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“We need to have these types of people on board so that the best strategies can be set against bullying,” Van Orman said. “Advocacy is important, but it is not as important as having the conversation about awareness of bullying as it is today.”

“This effort all started when Rotary International’s district government asked every club to get involved locally in a peace project,” said Groves. “Dr. Cerullo, he and his group had a display at a Rotary District Conference I attended in November, and I picked up some brochures and gave them to Lee because I knew he would be interested.”

Dr. Cerullo, the President-Elect of the Glen-Riddle Rotary Club and a professional educator, has worked nationally and regionally in an effort to further help raise awareness about what bullying really is, and how it, along with violence can be prevented in our schools and in the community. He has authored books on the subject and appeared on news networks such as CNN to promote the message of anti-bullying.

After receiving Cerullo’s brochures from Groves, Van Orman then met with Cerullo over lunch, and from that meeting came the inspiration for the new Twin Valley Rotary peace initiative. Now Van Orman is looking to incorporate Cerullo’s outlook on bullying into the Twin Valley club’s local goal of having representatives of community organizations – schools, first responders, non-profits, athletic organizations, churches, businesses and more, recognize address bullying in our community.

In speaking to his fellow Rotarians about the lead up to the club’s new peace initiative, Van Orman offered insight as to how bullying has changed into becoming more psychological, emotional, subtle and insidious than it has been in the past.

“We want to identify bullying, expose it, and deal with it,” said Van Orman, “If we redefine it and know what we are talking about we (come to understand) that everyone has a responsibility to define and expose bullying. It is not like when I was a kid and some said ‘give me your lunch money or I am going to give you a knuckle sandwich’, when we got into the 1970s and 80s bullying became (more mental) than physical as a ‘winner versus loser’ culture developed.”

Van Orman stated that bullying has become interwoven in our culture, often unknowingly, and it reaches so far as to occur beyond schools and into institutions such as churches, as well as workplaces and also the family home.

“It has to do with adults, because bullying is a learned behavior,” Van Orman explained to the assembled Rotarians, “Bullying has to do with control. Bullies like controlling others and they do so in two ways – exclusion and inclusion.”

As an example of how inclusion can act a vehicle for bullying, Van Orman spoke of an account from his own past. While working early in his career as a teacher, he was sitting with a group of other male teachers during lunch in a cafeteria. While they were eating, his fellow teachers began to ridicule a female student for her hand-me-down-clothing who had walked past them. Not wanting to be included with the group’s bullying behavior, Van Orman walked away from them. He instead went to sit with a group of female teachers. Those female teachers, surprised to see Van Orman at their table, asked “What are you doing here?” and so he told them about the behavior of the male teachers and explained that he would not fall prey to being included in that group.

“I can’t change a bully, but I can expose them,” he explained.

Van Orman offered examples of actions which should be recognized as modern bullying– demonization and marginalization, passive aggressive behavior, scapegoating (which is even used in business as a management tool), pranks at the expense of an individual, and inside jokes.

Van Orman said that there is a common denominator to the many facets of bullying, and that is ‘how do we help the victim?’

“Nobody chooses to be bullied,” said Van Orman. “We need to give people the tools to learn to take care of themselves.”

Among the tools mentioned by Van Orman was self-respect, getting a ‘tough skin’, a limited self-deprecating sense of humor, and deflection of attempts at bullying.

“We cannot ‘solve’ bullying,” he said, “but we can redefine it and bring people up to date on how they perceive bullying (and) talk about the new definitions despite our fears and hesitations.”

And with Cerullo’s help, the most important part of the Twin Valley Rotary Club’s anti-bullying effort, beginning a sustained community conversation, will officially be underway on March 27.

Read more about Dr. Claudio Cerullo and anti-bullying, visit www.teachantibullying.com

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