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JCC to tackle bullying at conference

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Bully culture is fostered by middle school and high school teachers and pupils.

That is what American Association of University Women program manager Holly Kearl believes. She will speak at a “Bully Culture: Understanding It and Overcoming It” conference from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson Community College.

“For students, the number one reason they don’t report it is that they don’t really know what to do or that the harassment will turn around on them,” Ms. Kearl said.

Parents, students and teachers are all invited to learn how to quash this counteractive behavior as well as learn preventive measures to keep the problem from happening again.

“Nationally, we did a sexual harassment report that came out in November,” she said. “We found that 48 percent of students were harassed in 2010-11.”

More than 30 people reported witnessing harassment in a school setting, she said, but only a few said they reported the problem.

In addition to being a co-author of the report, she wrote “Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women” and is the founder of International Anti-Street Harassment Day in 2011.

The conference will also include a documentary filmed by four students at JCC’s AAUW branch.

“The film defines sexual harassment, discusses its prevalence, conveys the emotional and educational toll it takes and provides strategies and best practices for preventing it,” JCC-AAUW adviser Katherine M. FitzGerald said.

The students received a $2,850 grant to create the film in September and wanted to focus on the figures AAUW came out with recently about bullying and sexual harassment. This is the first film any of these students have created before.

“Incidences of sexual harassment continue to increase in school, affecting the well-being of children and their academic performance, and growing access to cell phone and Internet technologies has led to a marked increase in incidences in cyberspace,” Ms. FitzGerald said. “The data in the report is alarming.”

The film is intended to create discussion about harassment, a hot topic among many school administrators this school year.

The program costs $20 per person and includes lunch, program materials, a performance by the Sackets Harbor Glee Club and a panel facilitated by the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County.

To RSVP, call conference chairwoman Jeri Fairman at 786-2418.

“I think JCC is doing great work to address sexual harassment at the local schools,” Ms. Kearl said. “Everyone can do something, no matter who they are.”

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