Dozens of children ages 5 through 14 gathered to listen, learn and let loose Aug. 1 at the Bullying Stops Here Rally at the City of Port Arthur Health Department building.
Brenda Milo – or “Nurse Brenda,” as she introduced herself to the children – is the LVN with the Port Arthur Health Department who organized the event. The affair kicked off with music provided by Health Department employee Israel Guidry. Nurse Brenda welcomed attendees and introduced the Golden Triangle Hispanic Association, a folkloric ballet group, who danced and swirled for the rapt audience of children, parents and volunteers. The dancers’ event coordinator La’Tisha Vargas accompanied the group that includes two of her own daughters. Vargas said the dancers perform at various events, and they are always happy to be part of a good cause.
Guest speakers Port Arthur Police Officer Calvin Walker and Mental Health of America of Southeast Texas Executive Director Jayne Bordelon talked to the children about the effects of bullying and what to do if they were the targets. Walker told the children he was not bullied a lot in school because he was fast and when approached by bullies, he ran. Walker told the youth if they are approached by bullies, run if they are able and then go tell someone who can help like a teacher, a principal, a parent or a police officer.
The officer gave examples of bullying. He said physical bullying is a problem, but bullying through verbal abuse can be just as emotionally damaging to someone.
Ten-year-old Reahnna Roberts from DeQueen Elementary told Walker she had been bullied. Roberts was at the rally with the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and its Assistant Director Emily Green. Roberts said she felt she had been bullied by a teacher in school when the teacher verbally reprimanded her for something she did not do in front of her whole class. In an interview, the little girl said that was not the only time she had been bullied.
“Some other kids called me names,” Roberts said.
Walker said bullies come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and it is important to report it when you feel you are being bullied— even by an authority figure.
“Any of you have Facebook? Twitter?” Walker asked. He related a story about a young woman who was bullied via Facebook and other social media. Apparently, according to Walker, inappropriate photos of the young woman, given to a boyfriend and meant to be private, circulated at her school.
“Once you put that on the Internet, it’s there,” Walker warned. “You can’t delete it. Don’t do it.”
The young woman was distraught, Walker related. She changed schools to try to get away from the pictures from her past. Then, the pictures reappeared, circulating throughout the population of her new school, causing more ridicule from her peers. Eventually, in a bout of depression caused by bullying, the young woman drank bleach in an attempt to kill herself. She was unsuccessful, and then posts jesting about the suicide attempt got back to her. Finally, unable to bear consistent bullying, the young woman hanged herself, Walker said.
“A beautiful young lady is gone,” he told the children, impressing upon them the importance of kindness to those who are bullied and prudence in not over-sharing via social media. He told the children and the parents gathered to call him or e-mail him if they felt they or their children were the victims of bullying.
Bordelon spoke after a drawing for door prizes and a dance break. She read to the children and explained to them there is a big difference between “telling” and “tattling.” She told them that when you tell on someone just to get them into trouble, that is tattling, but when someone is bullying you or someone else, telling is the right thing to do.
Bordelon said she has noticed an increase in bullying in elementary schools over the years, and that is why her focus this year has been on elementary schools.
Bordelon said, “I am just shocked at how mean children are. I think a lot of time it has to do with who you hang out with. I think our parents are responsible for how children are acting in school. I mean if your mother is fighting with somebody and yelling and screaming and pulling hair, then what do you learn? You learn that is the way to solve a problem. That is not the way to solve a problem.”
She then had a helper pass out a piece of paper to all the children. She told the children to do whatever they wanted with the paper. Children crumpled or tore at their paper. Then she instructed them to return the paper to the state in which it was given, brand new and crisp. The children smoothed out their crumpled papers and pieced the torn sheets back together, but, Bordelon pointed out, it was not the same as when she had given it to them. She said the same was true with bullying.
“Sometimes, you can hurt someone so much that you can’t fix it, and they will never be the same again.”