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'Bouchard on Bullying' draws wall-to-wall crowd

January 12, 2011 - It was standing-room only last week when the Lake Orion community -- adults and kids alike – turned out to hear Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard talk about bullying.

The event, which took place at the Orion Township Library and was sponsored by the North Oakland Community Coalition, was dubbed 'Bouchard on Bullying and 'focused primarily on cyber-bullying and Internet predators.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard spoke Jan. 6 at the Orion Township Library. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)
Bouchard made a point of presenting the audience with real-life illustrations of the very real danger that can be associated with the Internet and those who hide behind it.

While many parents expressed appreciation for the event, several also noted they'd hoped for more discussion about in-school bullying.

Margaret Trimer-Hartley and her son, Nik, recently helped spur a dialog on the topic when they published an essay in the Review about the bullying Nik endured when he attended one of Lake Orion's middle schools.

He now attends the charter school his mother runs in Detroit.

Trimer-Hartley said she was disappointed the sheriff did not call on the community to act collectively.

"It was all about what we can do individually to protect our kids from mostly cyber-bullying," she wrote when the Review asked for Facebook feedback on the event. "That's important. But I believe we do need to address the culture in our region. It's not just a Lake Orion issue...but how we address it could set us apart from other communities. I would love to be known as a community that recognizes and resolves its problems—rather than one that runs from or ignores them."

Lake Orion resident Terry Lang seemed to hear the audience message loud and clear.

"I seemed to gather from the crowd that the overwhelming feeling is the schools are reactive when dealing with bullying and not proactively helping kids deal with bullies," he said. "I did appreciate the one community member's opinion that if we want this to be a priority than we have to make certain the school district knows it."

Alissa Robinson attended the presentation with her daughter, a member of Girl Scout Troop 13283, and the group's other members.

"I thought it was good," said Robinson. "But I think a lot of parents wanted to know about the kind of bullying that goes on inside the schools."

The troop recently engaged in an empathy role play exercise; the girls thought up different scenarios, and each had an opportunity to play the role of the victim, the bully, and the bystander.

"They talked afterward about how they felt in each role," Robinson said. "They were surprised. It was a good experience for them."

Lake Orion resident Karen Hudson, who's been a driving force behind 1,000 Conversations about Mental Health in Lake Orion group, said she though the presentation was good for two reasons.

"The first was for opening parents' eyes to the dangers of leaving children unsupervised on their computers," she said. "Often things start innocently and escalate out of control. The call for 'parents to be parents' was right on."

Second, Hudson said, was the sheriff's message to students. "When they hit the "send" button they better have thought it out," she said. "There are consequences."

But, like other parents, Hudson also said she'd hoped for more dialog about day-to-day physical bullying, noting the need for improvement in specific procedures including training for teachers and administrators, as well as a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in schools.

"Finally, I'm proud I live in a community that wants to have conversations that are real, and wants to work together to make our schools even better. Let's not hide our problems because that doesn't solve anything."

Mindie Wolvin agreed.

"It seemed like great starter information about bullying," she said. "It is now up to us to carry the ball."

Lake Orion Review Editor
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