Holocaust Center in Maitland to present panel on Bully Prevention

By : Melanie Ararat
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MAITLAND, Fla. | The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida in Maitland will hold a bully prevention panel discussion on Oct. 14 in conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month.

The panelists include Megan Berry, UpStanders program coordinator of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center; Mary Bridges, senior director of student services of Orange County Public Schools; Maureen Dobbins, prevention specialist of Seminole County Public Schools; and Kathleen Morgan, DNP of RDV Sportsplex Rediatrics. The moderator is Barb Bergin, executive director of Crimeline — a company that assists law enforcement agencies in Central Florida.

“We wanted to do something not only to honor the month and to bring awareness to [it], but also to help contribute to the Orlando community,” Berry says. “We thought this would be a great way by bringing together all of these different experts to be able to give parents, teachers, students, the general public who work with children and anyone who wants to come in and ask questions and hear some advice about the current situation of bullying and what they can do to help.”

The panel discussion aims to answer questions about what is considered bullying, how common is it among youth, how to talk to children about it and if there are effective ways to prevent bullying.

“The main goal of the panel is to have a conversation and open a dialogue about bullying prevention,” Berrys says. “I hope they learn that there is truly something for everyone to do when we’re talking about the bullying problem and how we can try to make it better.”

The panel discussion was put together by UpStanders: Stand Up to Bullying Initiative, a program provided by the Holocaust Center. It is a bullying prevention program that is rooted in Holocaust education for the purpose of looking at bystander behavior and teaches students to speak up and become UpStanders instead, according to Berry.

“During the Holocaust, there were people who were not a part of the Nazi party, they were just living in Germany or around the Europe area and they saw what was going on, but they didn’t do anything to stop it,” Berry says. “They were allowing this persecution to continue and they were allowing the Nazis to discriminate against and ultimately kill millions of people. So we take that lesson and we take that idea and we teach our children to become UpStanders to stand up to the bullying and injustices.”

According to Berry, one statistic that will be spoken about extensively among the panel is that 75 percent of children say they have witnessed bullying at some point in their young lives.

“Thankfully that’s not 75 percent of children are actively experiencing bullying or being bullies, but this is something that reaches basically every single child, either in person or online,” Berry says. “It really is a conversation that should be had with everyone and that’s why our UpStanders program does focus on those bystanders because they are the largest group and often overlooked in the bullying conversation.”

While bullying is an issue that needs addressing for all school-aged children, LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the subject.

“Nearly nine out of 10 LGBTQ youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation,” according to the Anti-Bullying Institute.

Marco Quiroga is the program director of the Contigo Fund, an organization that emerged after the Pulse shooting and aims to financially help other organizations that want to help the LGBTQ community in Central Florida. Quiroga will be a part of the panel discussion to talk about the LGBTQ community in regards to bullying.

“All it comes down to is for adults to make sure that kids have that safe space where they feel like they can go talk to someone about anything,” Berry says. “I hope we really empress that upon the adults in the  audience and that they know that the biggest thing to do is just listen even if it sounds trivial and not as important to the adult because it means the world to the kid.”

The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida, located at 851 N. Maitland Ave., will hold its Panel on Bully Prevention on Sunday, Oct. 14 from 2-3:30 p.m. The panel is free and open to the public. You can RSVP at HolocaustEdu.org/Events/All/Bullying-Prevention-Panel-Discussion.

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