Teasing and bullying has always been around, but … it’s really brutal these days.
Lander, WY (PRWEB) January 27, 2012
Students at Lander Valley High School and other schools in Wyoming’s Fremont County School District No. 1 got a direct lesson in bullying and its potential effects this week, thanks to the efforts of a concerned father.
Lane Weinberg – father of three district students, including a junior at Lander Valley High – pressured district officials to organize a special assembly on bullying, conflict resolution and suicide prevention after word spread locally about last month’s suicide attempt by a high school sophomore. According to blog posts and local media reports, the female Lander, Wyoming resident attempted to kill herself Christmas Eve after being tormented by classmates over her weight and other physical issues.
The girl survived when family members found her with a bottle of prescription medication and rushed her to a local emergency room. After returning from the hospital, the female student “tweeted” about her experiences on the social media site Twitter, and the matter quickly became a firebrand in the population-6,900 City of Lander.
None of Lane Weinberg’s children were involved in the bullying incidents or ever reported being bullied, but the father said after he read about the girl, he was determined to see that school officials “get involved on a more proactive level.”
“Teasing and bullying has always been around, but with the advent of the Internet and social media, it’s really brutal these days,” Lane Weinberg said. “Kids face tremendous social pressures already, but now it’s so easy to pick on someone. You can say really mean and hurtful things without even having to face them. And we see the results of it every day.”
At first, school officials – who didn’t publicly acknowledge the alleged bullying incidents until local news outlets started reporting about the girl’s social media assertions – were hesitant to address the matter at all, Weinberg said. They were much less interested in scheduling an assembly that “essentially shoved it down everyone’s throats,” he added.
But he continued pressing, contacting the district superintendent’s office and several teachers to find support for the idea of a school assembly addressing these issues. Eventually the district decided to host an assembly, and as the Jan. 19 event drew closer and more school officials got on board, the event became a community magnet. Officials decided to move the assembly to the evening and open it to the public, and “The Dangers of Bullying” grew into a sort of town-hall gathering that ultimately drew over 2,000 participants.
“It was great,” Lane Weinberg said. “People came out and expressed their opinions honestly and strongly, but respectfully. I think it did a lot of good.”
A special panel arranged by Weinberg, who is a child psychologist with a 22-year practice in Riverton, Wyoming, discussed such issues as cyber-bullying, conflict resolution and the public school’s role in bullying scenarios. The panel included Lane Weinberg, fellow psychologists Louisa Bohm and Patrick Smith, and representatives of a regional suicide-prevention hotline, local law enforcement and the Lander Valley High School staff.
“I think events like ‘The Dangers of Bullying’ are becoming increasingly important,” noted Bohm, a professional psychologist for more than three decades whose practice focuses on family psychology. “You don’t need to live in Fremont County to understand how devastating bullying can be to young minds, particularly online bullying. I applaud my colleague Lane Weinberg for bringing this community together on this sensitive and critical issue.”
While the Jan. 19 even didn’t lead to any concrete rule changes, community members and school officials alike left the event – which was often heated but always civilized – with “a new understanding of bullying issues and what schools and parents might do about it,” Lane Weinberg noted. “We left with a lot to think about.”
School district officials promised to think about new penalties for bullying incidents, including a one-year academic ban for students who commit serious offenses. While some in the audience attempted to shout down the idea of a year-long school suspension for teasing, others applauded the proposal.
Such disagreements, “as long as they’re civilized,” are “exactly why communities need to come together to discuss these matters,” Lane Weinberg noted.
“It’s all right to disagree,” he said. “The important thing is we came together and talked about it – and now we can all think about things we can do to prevent kids from suffering so much that they feel they need to end their lives.”
About Lane Weinberg
Lane Weinberg, 54, is a child psychologist in Riverton, Wyoming. He earned both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in psychology from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Lane Weinberg enjoys off-roading and skiing and lives in Lander, Wyoming, with his wife, Christine, and their three children.