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Howard County Voices for Change Youth Coalition facilitates peer-based anti-bullying discussion [Commentary]

In Howard County, we are determined to provide an open forum of discussion on bullying so that no teen has to suffer in silence. With the Council's passage of Resolution 16-2013 designating Voices for Change Youth Coalition as the designated organization to facilitate discussion among youth coupled with the county's anti-bullying task force, we are already beginning to see progress. 

For those not already aware, the students members of Voices for Change will share their voice on how effective or ineffective they believe our school policies are, what bullying instances are occurring in schools, what we could or should be doing to further our goal of prevention, and what resources they think would be beneficial in helping them deal with bullies.  It's my hope that students gain the strength to be advocates for their fellow classmates who may be too afraid to come forward or stand-up for themselves.  Most importantly, as the adults, we must listen to our children and youth when they share feelings of being a victim of bullying or witness others being bullied.

 Voices for Change has already hosted a meeting to begin survey discussions and will have several other meetings leading up to when a report is due back to the County Council with their recommendations.  In addition, residents can expect to see a series of forums hosted by the Howard County Public School System while they engage with representatives on how bullying has impacted the school environment and opportunities for improvement. These forums are limited to 50 students each and targeted for high school and middle school students. You must be registered to attend. 

Every day, we are reminded of the tragic consequences of bullying: depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, feelings of worthlessness and poor school performance. Some of these consequences may carry on through adulthood and in some tragic cases, the victim sees no way out other than through suicide. 

 As we continue to make forward progress, we must face this challenge as a community and tackle this issue together in harmony with many great leaders including the first lady, Katie O'Malley, and Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice.  Through our work in teaching civility, leadership and advocacy, it's my hope that we will lead our youth to a time and place when they no longer fear going to school because of bullies.  Peer led advocacy programs will not only teach our youth to help each other, but it also gives hope to those who have been afraid to speak up.  In the coming months, I look forward to seeing how Howard County's Voices for Change Youth Coalition is able to illustrate in harmony with our anti-bullying task force what we need to be doing to eradicate bullying from our community.   

Dr. Calvin Ball is the District 2 Howard County Council member

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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