"Bullying" Takes Center Stage as Focus of Firm Event "Bullying" Takes Center Stage as Focus of Firm Event

featuring James A Serritella

In a 2009 survey by the National Center for Education, 1 in 3 students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied by their peers. More disturbing, however, are the repercussions of bullying on school communities nationwide. One must merely look at the 1999 Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colorado or the recent suicide of an Irish student attending school in Massachusetts to understand the scope of what bullying can do. What has been thought of as a normal part of growing up is now being viewed as a damaging and dangerous threat to communities’ students, teachers, and families.

As the topic of the firm’s Religious and Not-for-Profit practice spring lunch scheduled for May 19 at Fulton’s on the River in Chicago, “Protecting Students From Cyberbullying and Harassment in Schools” will be presented by the firm’s Erika Harold, a nationally recognized expert and speaker on the topic. Also speaking will be Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, the superintendent of Cook and Lake County Catholic schools. Sr. Mary Paul will be placing a moral emphasis on anti-bullying campaigns, as well as present her school system’s methods of handling the issue.

Ms. Harold began her national bullying prevention advocacy when she won the 2003 Miss America pageant with a bullying prevention platform. Since winning the pageant, she has spoken to more than 100,000 students at hundreds of venues across the country on behalf of anti-bullying efforts. “I have spoken with victims, bullies, and bystanders, at locations ranging from some of the most affluent high schools in the U.S. to juvenile correctional facilities.” Additionally, Ms. Harold has discussed bullying on television shows such as Good Morning America, CNN, The Today Show, and PBS’s award-winning series In the Mix. She also received a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Ms. Harold’s work in this area draws upon her own experience as a victim of harassment while in high school. “People are often surprised that one can be both Miss America and a victim of harassment,” says Ms. Harold.

In her work advocating for anti-bullying efforts, Ms. Harold takes a multi-faceted approach, focusing on what schools, parents and communities can do to better protect children. Ms. Harold also challenges young people to be the leaders of change in their own schools.

According to Ms. Harold, given young people’s increased use of social networking sites and other technologically-based means of communicating, students now face bullying not just in the classroom but also in cyberspace. Since many children don’t report bullying to their parents or teachers, it often goes unchecked, allowing its devastating effects to continue. These consequences can include depression, poor performance in school, stress-related illnesses, violence against others, and even suicide.

In conveying the message to the firm’s various not for profit clients, Ms. Harold will describe the scope of the problem and discuss recent court decisions and legislation that comprise a nationwide effort of states and not for profit organizations to combat this destructive phenomenon. Ms. Harold also will provide tips on how parents can protect their children from bullying.

With this in mind, Ms. Harold will elaborate on how these organizations can improve their anti-bullying efforts. “Organizations that serve young people must learn to pick up on warning signs and proactively work to protect them.” says Ms. Harold.

A School Perspective

As superintendent for the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools, Sister Mary Paul McCaughey is responsible for more than 90,000 students at over 250 schools in Cook and Lake Counties. She will discuss the thinking behind the system’s recently revised bullying prevention policy

By creating a strong policy against bullying, the Catholic Schools can deliver quick and decisive action when bullying occurs. “Families choose Catholic schools because of our safe and positive learning environments,” says Sr. Mary Paul. “Preventing bullying in our schools is essential to our mission, where families expect a community of faith committed to academic excellence and loving service for their children.”

The long term consequences, Ms. Harold emphasizes, are of the utmost importance. “Young people often can’t fully appreciate the long lasting impact bullying will have on their classmates. But many adults can attest to the fact that you can be a successful 45-year-old, who still remembers the names you were called in junior high.”

Ample time for audience participation will be provided following the presentation.

To reserve a seat for the May 19 luncheon or to find out more information, please contact Cy Griffith at cgriffith@burkelaw.com or 312/840-7035.

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