December 3, 2012


Children learn about bullying

College, other groups organize event at Cortland Free Library


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland education majors Gabrielle Ortiz, left, and Andrea Seidenberg, right, offer lessons in coping with bullies to area children Saturday at the Cortland Free Library.

Staff Reporter

Children at the Cortland Free Library Saturday learned the definition of bullying as well as ways to help prevent bullying from happening in school.
The event, which ran from 10 to 11:30 a.m., was based on the children’s book “Oliver Button is a Sissy,” written by Tomie dePaola, a children’s book author from Connecticut.
The book chronicles the life of a boy who isn’t like the other boys in his school. It is closely based on what dePaola, who is gay, went through as a child.
The event was put on by the Cortland Free Library, the SUNY Cortland Education Club, SUNY Cortland Literacy Department, SUNY Cortland Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee, and the Cortland LGBT Resource Center.
Michele Gonzalez, SUNY Cortland literacy chair, said the book is a great way for children to learn how to deal with bullying, both recognizing it and taking action.
A group of graduate students from the college read the book to a handful of children in attendance, also having a workshop that followed to go over what the children learned.
“It started by me hearing about a lot of kids on the campus not feeling safe because of this sort of thing,” Gonzalez said. “We then figured that if we’re going to do something about bullying, we might as well start with the younger children, teaching them things so they can help the next generation hopefully be free of bullying.”
One of the lessons taught to the children was called SAFE, which is a four-part program. First is “Say what you feel,” urging the children to tell a bully their behavior is unacceptable. Second is “Ask for help,” which asked that children tell an adult.
The third is “Find a friend,” which asks that children try to be around the victim during times he or she would normally get bullied. Statistics show most bullying with young children happens when no one else is around.
“Exit the area” is the final strategy, which says that if a child feels uncomfortable he or she should go somewhere else.
Allison Keiser, a graduate student working on her second master’s degree, spearheaded the program with Gonzalez. She said she hopes to turn this into an annual event if interest remains high.
Three undergraduate members of the Education Program at the college — Susan Altamura, Ryan Condon and Jules McGorty, all juniors — helped put on Saturday’s event, which was geared toward second- and third-graders.
“Everyone has been bullied in some form at one time or another,” Altamura said. “People need to know that words can really hurt, especially with kids.”
Homer resident Christina Caravella brought her two daughters, 8-year-old Lucia and 7-year-old Lavinia, to the workshop because she thought it was important for her kids.
“We talk a lot as a family about this sort of thing,” she said. “We tell our kids that they need to be inclusive, not exclusive, and also ways they can help their classmates. I just want my kids to be able to stand up for what’s right, and this is a great way for them to learn.”
Farrah Predestin, a second-year graduate student, jumped at the chance to help when she heard about the program.
“As an African-American woman, we’ve been oppressed I feel,” she said. “I feel like in a way the LGBT community is going through the same thing, so I wanted to be here for that reason. I know what it’s like to be bullied, and it’s no fun.”


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