Bullying victims share tales of woe
By Marie Szaniszlo
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Friday, April 29, 2011
Young victims of bullying shared their stories yesterday with state officials and lawmakers at a State House forum.
“The source of my strength came from knowing I was not alone,” said Victor Gonzalez, a 19-year-old Bucknell University sophomore from Boston.
In middle school, Gonzalez recalled, he was called a “dirty Mexican” who would never amount to anything.
His teachers told him to ignore it, he said, but when the name-calling escalated to threats and violence, his mother intervened.
Gonzalez was one of four young people featured in Bullying: True Stories, a new film screened at yesterday’s forum, which was co-sponsored by Partners HealthCare and the state.
“Bullying is no longer considered a harmless rite of passage or just a part of growing up,” said Barbara Leadholm, state mental health commissioner. “We must address the issue for what it is — a destructive imbalance of power — and offer support to both the young people who are being bullies and the bullies themselves.”
The issue came under the spotlight last May, when Gov. Deval Patrick signed anti-bullying legislation in the wake of the suicides of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old in South Hadley, and Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old Springfield student.
The 11-month-old law’s provisions include mandates that districts implement an anti-bullying curriculum and training for school staff.
“A safe and positive learning environment is every bit as important as the quality of a teacher,” state Rep. Marty Walz, a Back Bay Democrat and the law’s chief author, told about 500 educators, health-care providers and young people.