In August of 2018, the Town Council officially approved for our department to create a Florence Youth Commission. The commission’s purpose is to provide direct representation and a voice to Town staff and the mayor and council, in issues that impact local youth.
The commission began its monthly meetings in March, elected officers and created a mission statement and discussed items important to Florence youth.
At a future work session with council, the commission plans to discuss underage drinking, smoking, vaping and bullying as important youth issues. After teaching for six years in Prescott Valley and Maricopa schools, I know these are real issues, challenging today’s teens. However, the one item that is constant through several generations and never seems to disappear is bullying.
Federal, state and local officials constantly heap new requirements on school districts and teachers each year. It’s a wonder there’s time for actual classroom instruction. However, I am glad to see organized efforts from a variety of resources that combats bullying.
I personally experienced this for several years. Bullies enjoy preying on any weakness that others have and exploit it through various means. In my school days, the bullies engaged in verbal and physical abuse, but I understand that technology has given today’s bullies, or cowards as I label them, endless methods to attack, primarily through social media.
It’s been years since I was bullied in middle school through several years of high school. I’ve forgotten how many instances of verbal threats and physical abuse I endured. My thin stature and shyness were targets for several bullies in Flagstaff and Phoenix schools.
I never told anyone what was happening; neither a teacher nor my parents. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I was too scared to defend myself. The fact I went to four high schools in three years didn’t help. I was always the “new kid” in class which announced to certain students that I was a prime target for their abuse.
My senior year in high school though, my situation changed. I gained confidence as a member of the football team and realized I could defend myself. My confidence soared when I began weight training and bodybuilding. Within months, I gained almost 30 pounds and with that, came a quiet but solid belief in myself that did not exist previously. Gaining size and strength did not completely eliminate others from bothering me, but they certainly came in handy when I needed to defend myself.
I am not a trained psychologist, but I know that being bullied can wreak havoc on a student in many ways. Embarrassment and anger can lead to tragic events, simply because bullies enjoy humiliating other students. Those who are bullied need strategies to handle their self-persecution. They also need to know that it’s OK to tell a teacher or parents that they are being bullied.
Schools must be pro-active when they learn of bullying within their school grounds. The more dialog and involvement to acknowledge and combat bullying, the better the chances to reduce, and perhaps someday, eliminate this harassment. I look forward to our Youth Commission and council partnering to decide what can be done to ease help those students who suffer in silence.