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Chapel Hill panel pushes bully prevention

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt hosted a discussion panel and a movie screening of the award-winnng documentary “Bully,” at East Chapel Hill High School Monday.

Only about two dozen people attended, and the event drew no high school students.

Rachel Kaplan, a staff member for The Bully Project, a national movement to end bullying inspired by the 2012 documentary, said Monday’s program is part of a national initiative started by the project called Mayors Campaign to End Bullying.

“Over 200 mayors across the country are showing the film during this month in an effort to start conversations in their town,” Kaplan said.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and so far, the movie has been shown to approximately 3.5 million children.

“The response to the movie has been really positive,” Kaplan said. “It’s been great to sort of watch what people are doing and the changes they are making in their schools.”

Dana Griffin, associate professor and school counseling program coordinator at the UNC School of Education, was a panelist at the event.

“I want the audience to learn how bullying actually hurts people,” Griffin said.

“This is actually a harmful thing and, you know, I don’t know why we don’t pay more attention to it, but it’s very serious, and the effects of it are long lasting.”

Griffin said bullying today is usually more covert.

“People do not see it, and so if you don’t see it, you cannot punish it,” she said. “It’s all covert, and it’s very hard to spot, and that’s why you don’t have the report and you don’t have teachers seeing it or other students seeing it.”

In February 2013, East Chapel Hill High held its first summit on cyberbullying, where students shared stories of personal experiences with social media bullying.

Griffin said she was grateful to the mayor for hosting this event and for bringing more awareness to the issue.

“I applaud the mayor for actually putting together this panel, for showing the movie,” she said. “To have someone from that political level to bring issue to this and an awareness to it is very important.”

Councilwoman Maria Palmer was in attendance and said that bullying is a major problem in the CHCCS system .

“I know kids who have been pulled out of school here and home-schooled because of bullying,” she said.

“Bullying is something that really concerns me.”

Palmer said that one way to fix the bullying problem in schools is to include the entire community.

“We need a different mindset,” Palmer said. “We need a mindset that teachers are also responsible. They have to address it in class.”

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