HUERFANO — Does bullying, or using one’s power to negatively affect another person, exist in Huerfano County? Yes. Is it a problem? Of course. But if you think it’s any different anywhere else, then you may not have it quite right. Simone DeVan, a John Mall High School sophomore, runs a Facebook page dedicated to anti-bullying called ‘Be Helpful Not Hurtful,’ and has been receiving excellent feedback from the very start. “Even before the page,” she said, “I’ve had parents come up to me and talk about their children being bullied. I’ve helped them out and it encouraged me to make the page.” She is optimistic about the successful impact her page has had on the community and in the schools, and stated that she plans to keep the page going as long as she can. DeVan is also planning summer and school classes for kids who are bullied, and has contacted local law enforcement about helping her with the effort. Rick Sciacca, school counselor for La Veta School District, said though he personally doesn’t see much ‘bullying’ on a daily basis, “We’d be ignorant if we thought it wasn’t going on.” He added he believes social media is
one of the biggest venues for bullying today. “It’s really become a tool for it,” he said. “The majority of it takes place out of school and carries over.” The principal of Peakview School, Tim Renn, was in concordance with this and stated the media and internet have definitely contributed to the amount that students are bullied. Renn also noted because the community around Peakview is so small, people are bound to see bullying as worse than it is. “And it doesn’t just apply to kids,” he said. According to Renn, parents and other members of the community are negatively affected by some of the ways social media is being used. Both La Veta and Peakview schools have taken steps to minimize bullying; according to Sciacca, La Veta has put time and effort towards anti-bullying classes for both instructors as well as students. Renn said Peakview put into place a program called P.A.W.S., which encourages students to have Pride, a positive Attitude, a 100% Work ethic, and to show Success. Renn said every morning, the school reminds the students of P.A.W.S. and its meaning, and positively reinforces the desire to show all of the qualities listed in the acronym. Renn also stated the earlier a student can be exposed to a healthy, welcoming school environment, the more likely it will be that they will have that positive outlook through the rest of their life. “This year has been a breakout year,” Renn said. He believes the students are taking to P.A.W.S. very well, and bringing those qualities back into their own environments. But why does bullying exist in schools? Both Sciacca and Renn agree students bring into schools what they have learned in their personal environments, and Renn asked rhetorically, “Where else is it going to come out?” School is the center of social life for most students, so according to Renn, of course whatever they feel and think is going to manifest there. He said the school should attempt to teach and model a better way for its students to interact so they lead a more positive life once they leave. And it’s this way all over America. Renn stated that P.A.W.S. is not unique; many programs like it exist in other schools across the country. Hopefully, each and every one of them is making a positive impact in students’ lives. Bullying may exist, but so does the fight against it, locally and all across the nation.