Curbing bullying takes a community

By KBJR News 1

February 11, 2014 Updated Feb 11, 2014 at 12:56 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - High school senior Marc Lane is at the top of his class and juggles track and soccer. Up until 10th grade, Marc was also a dancer.

"I danced for like 12 years. All sorts of dance hip hop, ballet, tap, contemporary, lyrical, the works, everything," Marc said.

But Marc's love for dancing didn't quite jive with some of his class mates in Middle School.

"Some kids would ridicule me and make fun of me cause I was dancing, and that was considered something for girls to do. Girls dance. Guys don't dance," he said.

A lot of it, Marc says, involved name calling.

"They call you gay a lot, stuff like that. Whatever they felt would put me down,"

He says the bullying he experienced wasn't life scarring, but he knows just how bad it can get.

Experts say bullying can include making threats, spreading rumors, and attacking someone physically or verbally.

One in three students says they've been bullied during the school year.

"If a kid could stop bullying. They would have," said Jill Peterson, the director of Junior High Ministries at the Vineyard Church in Duluth.

Peterson works with children on a daily base. She says bullying is more than just one person's battle.

"Nobody likes it. It's not a part of what's OK, but we need resources. It's not a kid problem. It's not a school problem. It's a culture problem," she said.

Peterson's church has made it a major mission to try to stop bullying. A recent workshop held in conjunction with The Bully Project brought together parents, police officers and educators to find possible solutions.

Experts say the key to curbing the bullying problem is education and awareness, not only about the issue and what to do if you're a victim, but what to do if you're watching bullying unfold in front of you,.

"The biggest thing I think that we need to do as a society is teach bystanders what to do, you know, the kids that are around, staff that is around, adults that are around. If they see something happening, go up and question it, find out what's going on, don't just ignore it," Steve Lindberg, dean of students at Duluth Edison North Star Academy.

The Bully Project offers several ways to be an "upstander" if you see bullying happen.

>Help others who are being bullied.
>Stop untrue or harmful messages from spreading.
>Reach out to new people in school
>Simply refuse to be a bystander.

"We've all been the bully, we've all been the people who have watched it happen and we've all been the victims of it . It's time to change the behavior," said Peterson.

Over the course of the year we'll continue a discussion of bullying in our communities by looking at various aspects of the problem in a series of special reports.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and help speak up and speak out. #speakupspeakout

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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