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Anti-bullying Experts Offer Tips

Peter Sanchioni

The state's new anti-bullying legislation may not make a difference unless schools stop reacting and proactively "train students in leadership skills to interrupt the cycle of bullying and teasing." This was the message two national experts brought to Milford on May 25.

Dr. Peter Sanchioni, superintendent of schools in Natick, and Andrew Zitoli, middle school principal in Millis, gave a 90-minute presentation, Improving Schools from Within, to about 30 people gathered at the Milford Youth Center. The audience included school officials from Milford, Hopedale, Bellingham, Mendon and Upton, the Hockomock Area YMCA in Franklin, the Milford Police Department, local Girl Scout leaders and parents.

"It's all about the students," Sanchioni said. "Teach students empathy," he stressed.

Bullying, Sanchioni stated, is not one student not wanting to talk with another or eat lunch with them. "We're talking about events that happen over and over and wear down the resiliency of the student," he explained.

"We need to sensitize students to the effects of bullying and teasing," Sanchioni said, noting lots of experts toss out facts about bullying but "nobody is talking about 'How do you get to the heart of it and stop bullying?'"

He advocated teaching students to make three choices: "There's three things you can do. Aid the person. Try to stop the bully. Go tell an adult."

"Not only can you build leadership at the middle school level, you can demand it and they will respond," stated Zitoli. In terms of working with students, "Discipline means to teach; it doesn't mean to punish," he added.

Their seminar was supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance and SCI AmeriCorps to the Milford Youth Center and the Juvenile Advocacy Group as part of AmeriCorps Week.


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