Scott Hamilton, Cimarron Alliance executive director, said donations from Oklahomans have made it possible for all interested educators, administrators and school counselors to attend at no cost.
“We want everyone who wants to attend to be here,” Hamilton (pictured) said. “We’re going to work together to learn how to work together in a school setting to end bullying.”
He said previous attendees have asked for practical tools, so this conference will be more workshop-oriented than strictly informational.
“We’re going to use real cases and give people practical tools that they can take back to their schools and implement the next day,” he said.
Steve Wessler, an internationally known expert on bullying, will facilitate the event.
“Bullying is still pervasive in schools,” Wessler said. “Data on actual numbers of incidents is pretty unreliable, so it’s hard to discuss whether or not there has been statistical improvement in bullying related to any particular category: race, religion, sex, body shape, gender, disability and sexual orientation.”
Wessler said he has seen some changes since he began work in this field in 1992.
“In those days,” he said, “I’d sit down with principals and they were still saying things like, ‘Boys will be boys’ or ‘Kids just need to toughen up.’ No one is saying that anymore. Everyone knows it’s a problem now.”
Hamilton said Oklahoma does not require statistics on bullying, and even in the districts where numbers are kept, the data is not made available.
“We know it’s a problem, though,” he said. “Attendees will also get to hear from a panel of former students who were victims of bullying. Some of the effects are life-altering and lifelong.”
Wessler said schools that have the most success do three things well: acknowledge the problem, implement programming to stop bullying, and most critically, get students involved on behalf of others.
“Most bullying happens outside the sight and hearing of adults,” Wessler said. “The schools that have seen a sea change have empowered students to speak up on behalf of other students.”
He said the conference will not be limited to LGBT-related bullying.
“We’re going to focus on all forms of bullying. I tell participants that I’m not there to change their views about race or sexuality; instead, I just want them to focus on the safety of students,” he said. “Typically, educators understand that principle and they get behind it.”
The conference will be held at Moore Norman Technology Center’s South Penn campus, beginning at 8:30 a.m., following a complimentary 8 a.m. breakfast. For more information, visit cimarronalliance.org.
Photo by Mark Hancock