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Niagara University leadership conference to address bullying, cyber-bullying

by jmaloni
Tue, May 1st 2012 03:30 pm

More than 200 area middle school students to attend conference on May 3

John Curtin knows what it's like to be bullied. The Niagara University junior communication studies major acknowledges that he was harassed by his peers from age 8 through his freshman year in high school.

When Curtin finally garnered the courage to confront his aggressor, he developed a stutter, potentially dampening his aspirations of becoming a television reporter. He has learned to deal with the condition, but the scars of his afflicted adolescence remain. In fact, the only time that Curtin stutters these days is when he talks about his experiences with bullying, which is what he'll do as the keynote speaker during Niagara University's "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" conference on May 3.

More than 200 students in grades 6-9 from the Newfane, North Tonawanda, Royalton-Hartland, Starpoint and Wilson school districts are expected to take part in the workshop. Attending will be students who district administrators have identified as leaders, with hopes that the students will return to their respective schools as knowledgeable anti-bullying advocates.

In addition to hearing Curtin's presentation, the attendees will participate in exercises aimed at enhancing their ability to diagnose, report and even diffuse bullying and cyber-bullying situations. The event is being held in partnership with the Orleans/Niagara Teacher Center Policy Board

"To effectively prevent bullying from taking place in schools, it is imperative that students are trained to act as anti-bullying leaders, advocates and mentors for their peers," said Patti Wrobel, assistant dean of NU's College of Education. "We are beginning this series of workshops with middle school students because research shows that that is the period during which most bullying occurs."

Below is a synopsis of the workshops planned for the conference, which will take place in the Multi-Purpose Room of Niagara University's Gallagher Center. Groups will rotate activities throughout the day (until 1:30 p.m.), with a lunch break scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon.

Keynote Speaker

Niagara University junior John Curtin will tell attendees about his experiences as a victim of bullying.


Elizabeth Kinan, adjunct professor of education, will use iPads to show students examples of cyber-bullying, and explain why it is important to approach the Internet with caution.

Social Emotional Learning & Leadership

Dr. Paul Vermette, professor of education, will speak to students about social and emotional learning and character building.

Body Language

Etiquette and nonverbal communication expert John Bourdage will make students aware of how their body language can elucidate offensive and defensive characteristics.

'Be a Buddy, Not a Bully' Marketing Campaign

NU graduate students Chelsea Riedl and Ryan Coram will work with participants to create an anti-bullying marketing video.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that 37 percent of teens have reported being bulled while at school. That same study reported that 52 percent of students have been victims of cyber-bullying.

In the U.S., 49 states have passed anti-bullying laws (Montana has passed a policy only), according to stopbullying.gov. New York signed the Dignity for All Students Act into law on Sept. 13, 2010. The legislation, which takes effect July 1, prohibits all forms of harassment at school and school-sponsored events, particularly persecution based on a student's race, weight, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender. That law also requires schools to establish anti-bullying curricula, train school employees to effectively respond to bullying, draft proper anti-bullying language in student codes of conduct and report incidents of bullying to the State Education Department.

In response, Niagara University's College of Education recently introduced a three-tier clinical model on bullying/cyber-bullying, which was designed on research-based best practices. The model, meant to provide prevention and intervention strategies at building and district levels, is consistent with the approach used for Response to Intervention and meets the requirements of the Dignity for All Students Act. All participants accordingly receive trainer certification.

The college also offered a graduate level course on bullying this semester and plans to do so again in the fall.

For more information about Niagara University's education programs, visithttp://www.niagara.edu/education or call 716-286-8560.

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