Schools talk cyberbullying, implement hotlines

National attention, new state law contribute to efforts.

School districts across the Miami Valley are beefing up their anti-bullying policies and hosting school and community events this month to educate students and families about the dangers of bullying.

October has been recognized as National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month since 2010, after being observed as a weeklong event since 2006; however, it has imbued significance in Ohio this fall.

In January, the state passed the Jessica Logan Act, which mandates that all Ohio school districts, community schools and STEM schools implement a system to receive anonymous tips about bullying incidents, and it requires these institutions have policies that address bullying on school buses and cyberbullying.

Districts are required to have these provisions in place by Nov. 4.

The law was named for Jessica Logan, an 18-year-old suburban Cincinnati high school student who killed herself in 2008 after being harassed via text and social media.

“With all the social media and media in general impacting families, I think people are a lot freer about what they will say,” said Marcia Watts, assistant superintendent at Miamisburg City Schools. “(These posts) stir up a lot of issues out there that just grow and spill over into school.”

Miamisburg is among the local school districts – including Mad River, Hamilton, Trotwood-Madison and Beavercreek – that already have implemented a system for anonymously reporting multiple safety issues, including bullying.

Kettering City Schools implemented its Bullying Hotline on Oct. 1, and received its first tip the same day.

“(We) responded in less than two minutes,” Kettering Fairmont High School Principal Dan Von Handorf said. “The dad was absolutely stunned! This looks to be a great communication tool for students and parents who have concerns, allowing us to address issues immediately.”

In addition to getting these mechanisms in place, many districts are holding seminars and forums to address and deter bullying this month.

Northmont City Schools is bringing in Jodee Blanco, a New York Times bestselling author and bullying activist, for a workshop and to speak to families throughout the area at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, which will be recognized as a national Unity Day against bullying, filmmaker Lee Hirsch, will be at Wittenberg University at 7:30 p.m. in Weaver Chapel for a free public lecture, “An Evening with Lee Hirsch: Bully.” Hirsch is the director of the 2012 documentary “Bully.”

Last week, Springfield City Schools participated in a separate Wittenberg event that included student discussion panels and the showing of “Bully,” as well as a short film produced by two Southeastern High School students called “Don’t Lose Hope.”

The film, created by senior Tyler Gregory and junior Scott Hannah, was among the student films lauded by The Great American No Bull Challenge this year.

The Challenge is a social action organization that uses social media, music and filmmaking to inspire middle and high school students to create films about digital responsibility.

The Southeastern students’ film cites sobering bullying statistics (see box) and features students holding up signs about ways they’ve been bullied and how it made them feel.

A couple of the students’ statistics dealt with how bullying can play a role in suicide, as was suspected with Jessica Logan and three Dayton-area middle-schoolers this year.

The grandparents of one of those students, Dylan Roach of Eaton, have purchased and distributed 4,200 wristbands this month that say, “In Memory of Dylan Roach. Stop Bullying – Be Kind.”

“We ordered about 800 at first, but had to double that,” said Steve Favorite, Dylan’s grandfather, adding the demand has grown since then. “We just want to stop the bullying.”

Favorite said he believes the increase in cyberbullying has made it even more difficult for kids to find relief.

“Bullying has been around for a long time, but you used to get off the bus and go play,” Favorite said. “But you can’t get away from it now, it’s on the computer and the phone.”

He said his grandson, a Boy Scout and member of the National Honor Society, would have turned 14 this month.

Favorite said he supports these types of awareness campaigns, and hopes they help all kids — the bullies and the bullied.

“The kids that bullied (Dylan) need as much help as he did; I have no ill feelings toward those kids,” he said. “Nothing is going to bring my grandson back, but if I can stop it from happening again, I will.”

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