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Waynesboro church tackles topic of bullying

'Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History' was fourth in church's 'Bearing Witness' series

April 15, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — He was mocked, urinated upon, hit and kicked throughout middle and high schools, and Jamie Nabozny says his situation differs little from other youths being bullied.

Nabozny’s story, as told in the documentary “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History,” served as the catalyst for discussion at Trinity United Church of Christ on Sunday evening.

In the film, Nabozny talks about the landmark court case he won that determined school officials could be held accountable for not stopping abuse and harassment of all students.

“I fought back for all the kids who can’t fight back,” Nabozny said on camera.

Some gathered in the church said the Wisconsin-based tale mirrors what continues to happen in the nation’s schools, including the local ones. A Waynesboro Area Senior High School student told the group of personal experiences similar to what Nabozny suffered two decades ago.

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“While you’re being harassed, people don’t want to get involved because they’d be harassed themselves,” the student said.

The “Bullied” documentary served as the final program in Trinity United Church of Christ’s four-part series called “Bearing Witness.” Trinity’s pastor, the Rev. Susan D’heedene, said she admired Nabozny and his mother for their strength.

“I’m just really wowed,” she said.

D’heedene also said she has admired the United Church of Christ’s long history of being diverse.

The church’s consistory president, Carol Mowen, said she feels anti-gay bullying is the civil rights issues of this era. Waynesboro resident Teresa Needham said it reminds her of race issues.

“When do we get it?” Needham asked. “When do we start learning?”

Intolerance is learned behavior, she said.

“Until you teach people to be tolerant, ... you’ll still have people saying (things like) ‘Boys will be boys,’” to excuse bullying, Mowen said.

Nicole Gladieux serves as the adviser for Waynesboro Area Senior High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. Students in that club are working with faculty members to display a “Safe Haven” symbol in their classrooms indicating those teachers are open to talking about harassment of any type.

“These are great students who took it upon themselves” to tackle issues, Gladieux said.

Gay-Straight Alliance students said bullying from everything from sexuality to clothing choices distracts students from what they should be doing in school. They said it also contributes to absenteeism.

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