Trying to end bullying in South LA

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Areva Martin, Co-Founder and President of Special Needs Network, who works on anti-bullying programs. (Photo by Sarah Politis.)

Areva Martin, Co-Founder and President of Special Needs Network, who works on anti-bullying programs. (Photo by Sarah Politis.)

The death of Canadian teenager, Rehteah Parsons has once again put bullying back in the newspapers. She hung herself after she was allegedly raped and bullied. Bullying is a world-wide tragedy that often gets dismissed.

However, tomorrow, the issue will be addressed at an anti-bully summit on the USC campus. More than 350 children are expected to attend the “I Stand For Peace” conference. Areva Martin, the co-founder and president of Special Needs Network, says the summit will help students understand the seriousness of bullying.

“We want to empower them. We want them to feel empowered to make changes on their campuses. And we want them to know that peace really starts with them,” Martin said.

This summit is unique because instead of just focusing on the victims, the summit is also reaching out to the bullies to find out what’s motivating them.

“Usually there’s something underneath there you know there’s problems at home, there’s a lack of positive role models. You know there may be some emotional issues. There may be some mental health issues. There’s just a whole range of things so we want to embrace even those kids who are typically ostracized. We want them to feel loved, nurtured, and we want to surround them with the kind of support they need so they can turn that behavior into a positive,” Martin said.

Concern over bullying in South LA

In South LA specificially, there is a concern with gang-related bullying activities.

“So we’re also dealing with students coming to and from school and not always feelings safe because of gang related activities in their communities. So I think theres a heightened sense of violence that happens in South Los Angeles in particular,” Martin said.

The influence of gangs can have other negative consequences. Melissa Sherman, Executive Director of Beyond Bullies, says it impacts the role models young people choose.

“There’s something very powerful about a guy identifying with an icon who is a tough guy who kills people. That kind of image is rapid and I think as the entertainment capital, that hurts,” Sherman said.

Sherman says California has the highest rate of bullying in the country. She thinks the increase is because bullying can be done at any time.

“Kids are not able to take a break from it unless preventative measures are in place. And so that person that you don’t get along with in school is now that person who tells their friends to taunt you online,” Sherman said.

Sherman said one way to stop this issue is to connect everybody and get everybody on board. She beleives that schools need to draft an anti-bullying policy. The summit tomorrow hopes to provide the foundation for children to make a change in their own school and community.

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