Imagine waking up each morning dreading the rest of your day.
You’re so sick about it, you don’t even want to get out of bed.
Sadly, thousands of children across America experience that dread every single weekday.
These kids are the victims of bullying.
Maybe they’re shy. Maybe they have a disability. Maybe they just don’t fit in well with the “cooler” kids. Regardless of the reason, far too many children – preteens and teens alike – live in fear of being picked on, of being tormented, of being intimidated daily by their peers.
Whether we want to admit it, bullying is an epidemic in this country.
In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile suicides that have resulted from bullying. Perhaps because of these cases, bullying has become a topic of national discussion.
It needs to be.
In a few weeks, the Northwest Herald will push that discussion forward.
For a few months now, reporter Chelsea McDougall has been investigating bullying in McHenry County and its many ramifications. We’ve talked to bullying victims, parents and educators. With the help of Leslie Schermerhorn, McHenry County regional superintendent of education, we’ve surveyed all of the county’s school districts about bullying and how they confront it.
Later this month, we’ll report our findings in a special series, “Confronting the Bully.” This series is just the start of what we hope will be a yearlong, communitywide discussion about bullying.
As a parent of a fourth-grader and a first year middle-schooler – my son just finished his first week of sixth grade at Lundahl Middle School – I have a personal interest in this topic.
I don’t want either of my children to dread going to school, just as I don’t want either of them to cause another to dread going to school.
Parents can’t be everywhere. Teachers can’t be everywhere. Of course, when adults are made aware of bullying, or have an inkling a child might be being bullied, they must step in and act.
But much of the time, bullying happens outside of an adult’s presence. So our kids have to be a part of the conversation. They have to understand the consequences of their actions, or their inactions.
Most bullying can be stopped if young bystanders – kids who are neither the bullies nor the bully victims – step up when they see bullying occur. Whether they confront the bully themselves or tell a responsible adult, our children are the best antidote for curing this epidemic.
So let’s help give them the recipe.
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The Bully Project: To help get kids get involved in the conversation, the Northwest Herald is cosponsoring two community events that families are invited to.
At 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at McHenry West High School, the makers of “Finding Kind” will host a special screening of their movie. Filmmakers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson will introduce themselves before and lead a discussion after the screening of “Finding Kind,” a powerful documentary about girl-on-girl bullying.
The movie is “about growing up as a girl, and what girls face, and how girls treat each other,” McHenry West Assistant Principal Carl Vallianatos said. “But this movie is not just for girls. Boys are closely connected to what happens to girls, and are impacted by their actions. And it’s just as important for parents to watch.”
The Northwest Herald is partnering with Centegra Health System and School District 156 to bring the filmmakers to McHenry. But Vallianatos stressed that parents and students from across the county are invited. The McHenry West gym holds 2,200 people, so mark your calendars. The screening is free, and parents and their school-aged children are invited.
Separately, we’re also working with the McHenry County Regional Office of Education and other community organizations to bring the movie “Bully” to McHenry County. Details still are being worked out, but the plan is to stage a communitywide screening at the Raue Center for the Performing Arts in Crystal Lake. We’d then work with several area movie theaters and school districts, and offer free screenings during the school day to area high schools and middle schools.
Originally titled “The Bully Project,” “Bully” follows five high school students who regularly face bullying in school.
Partnering with us and the Regional Office of Education on this project are the McHenry County Mental Health Board, the Raue Center, Pioneer Center for Human Services, and Choose Respect, an anti-bullying program sponsored by District 200, Turning Point and Grace Lutheran Church.
We’ll provide more details shortly.
In the meantime, if you have a personal story about bullying to share, drop me a line or send me an email. My contact information is at the end of this column.
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Informed voters: Questionnaires are in the hands of candidates in contested races in McHenry County, and for state and congressional offices. Friday is the deadline for candidates to answer our questions.
The following week, editors will be reviewing the responses and posting them to the Election Central page at NWHerald.com. As soon as all of the responses have been posted, we’ll open the site to our readers.
We also have invited candidates in contested races to meet with members of our Editorial Board. Those meetings begin Sept. 17. They will be videotaped, and the video also posted on our website.
With the Labor Day holiday tomorrow, we’re just about two months away from the Nov. 6 general election.
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Speaking of: Hopefully, most of you will be able to enjoy Labor Day with some extra family time, maybe a backyard barbecue, and some good weather.
Before you know it, we’ll be raking leaves, shoveling the driveway, and all that other cold weather stuff.
There are two things to look forward to with the coming of fall and winter, though.
And the end of construction season.
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at #NWHeditor.