The Anti-Bullying Campaign Coast-to-Coast

Vol. 39 No. 4

By

Elizabeth “Jodi” McShan is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and a member of the Dallas, Texas, firm of Withers & Withers, P.C.

Stories of children injuring or killing themselves or others because of bullying pose a growing concern for our communities nationwide. Because of this national concern, ABA YLD Chair Mario Sullivan and the ABA YLD Public Service Team, led by Courtenay Dunn, implemented the anti-bullying initiative, “Bullyproof: Young Lawyers Educating and Empowering to End Bullying.” This cross-country program reaches thousands of school children, explains the dangers of bullying, and makes a positive impact on our nation’s youth to help prevent bullying. With the help of the Bullyproof toolkit, available on the ABA YLD website, bar associations are rolling out this initiative across the country with great success.

Colorado

Casey Kannenberg of Godfrey Johnson PC in Colorado rolled out the initiative for the Colorado Bar Association YLD and the Denver Bar Association and helped implement the national rollout of Bullyproof at the 2013 Fall Conference in Phoenix. He recently presented the program for one of the local schools in the Littleton Public School District in Centennial, Colorado, where bullying and its tragic results have a long and public history. With the use of the ABA YLD resources and a handful of volunteers, Mr. Kannenberg successfully led the program in his hometown, engaging approximately 600 middle school students and teaching them about the harms of bullying.

Kannenberg was impressed by the resounding success of the program. “To see the message resonate with these children is powerful and rewarding. There is always the concern when presenting to a large group of students that you will fail to make a connection, but Mario and the rest of the Public Service Team have put together such a great program and toolkit that, if you simply follow the script, you will succeed; and you will make a positive impact on the children to whom you are presenting.”

The first step to implementing the program is to identify the key person in the school or school district to contact. Once you establish this connection, you must stay in contact with the individual, work out scheduling, and keep everyone updated. Often, the school district already employs an individual to oversee initiatives such as Bullyproof. The key is to find a date that works for everyone and plan ahead to ensure that you have the proper equipment at the school when you get there (speakers, projector, microphone, and so on).

The ABA YLD toolkit provides a specific structure for the volunteers. It takes approximately three-to-five volunteers to present the program. The toolkit includes a script for the introduction, the Bullyproof video, and the “Family Feud” style interactive game. Volunteers assist with the game, take pictures of the program, and one volunteer serves as the emcee. In addition, volunteers hand out prizes provided by the ABA YLD during the game portion of the presentation to keep the students engaged.

A key component of the program is the interaction with students and testimonials from volunteers. Each session allows the volunteers to speak to the group about their own experiences with bullying, how bullying affected them at the time, and how it does today. The personal touch really brings it home with the students. They see successful attorneys (or other individuals), and the children are shocked that the person standing before them was once a victim of bullying.

Mr. Kannenberg shared that his favorite part of the program was seeing the students remaining engaged and captivated by the program, participating in the game, and taking a genuine interest in the presentation. Although the hardest part was commitment and scheduling, he found it to be worth it all in the end.

The program contains an optional component at the end that provides the presenters and the school with valuable information regarding bullying at their own school. Students fill out a questionnaire anonymously that allows the school to determine its overall bullying climate. The toolkit provides the questionnaire, and the answers will help the school identify and work on issues. Mr. Kannenberg distributed this questionnaire to the students in Colorado and found it to be very rewarding when students provide honest feedback to the school to improve the bullying climate.

Oregon

Other affiliates around the country are taking part in the rollout as well. In Oregon, the Mutnomah Bar Association Young Lawyer’s Section reached out to the Oregon Attorney General for her support and to help with the initiative. The program’s reach is enhanced exponentially because it includes other community leaders in the publicity and implementation, and the more support the program can garner, the more children it can reach. Like other programs, the Oregon program focuses on middle school students, with a specific focus on fifth graders. The idea is to reach children as they are learning to make their own decisions and speak for themselves. During this time, children also learn to stand up for themselves and to stand up for others who may not be able to stand up for themselves.

Kentucky

The Kentucky Bar Foundation recently partnered with the ABA YLD to implement the program across the state. Roula Allouch, co-coordinator of the Public Service Project Team for the ABA YLD, shared that the best part of the partnership is the additional help and resources provided by the Foundation, namely its staff. As Mr. Kannenberg explained, coordination is key. Having a single point of contact to coordinate calendars and logistics eases the burden on the presenters and encourages more people to volunteer.

Execution Is Simple

Elizabeth Palmer, co-coordinator of the Public Service Project Team for the ABA YLD, underscored the simplicity and effectiveness of the program. She shared that the greatest obstacle the ABA YLD faces with the initiative is affiliates understanding that the execution is quite simple. Commitment to the program is key, but once you have a few committed people, the program can be presented anywhere by a few volunteer attorneys and impact the lives of thousands of children.

If your affiliate would like to take part in the Bullyproof initiative, you can find more about the program and the toolkit to implement the program at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives/anti_bullying_initiative.html.

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