At a bullying assembly at Wilson Middle School on Monday, Glendale Police Officer Joe Allen recalled how he was harassed by fellow students after he moved from Kentucky to California at age 10.
“I had a thick, country drawl,” he said. “I wore the wrong clothing. I had cut off jeans and colored socks, and I didn’t fit in. I got called lots of names.”
The assembly was intended for those who may bully, for those who are victims of bullying and for the greater number of kids who can step in to report bullies to adults.
“What it really comes down to is people treating you fairly and you treating them fairly and if they’re not, then we get somebody to step up and help us,” Allen said.
A survey of Wilson students earlier this year indicated that 20% of students had experienced cyber bullying outside of school.
When bullying happened on campus, the majority of students largely felt comfortable enough to report it to teachers and staff, according to Assistant Principal Sona Arakelyan.
“The data showed that though the majority of our kids feel safe on campus, the issue of bullying still exists and is a concern,” Arakelyan said.
Monday’s assembly was the first Allen presented on bullying to a group of school kids in his 22-year career as an officer with Glendale police.
As an officer, Allen said bullying can be an identifier of those who could potentially break laws later on.
Allen also discussed the risks of students posting comments online. As an officer, he has issued search warrants for social media pages of people investigated by police long after they deleted entire accounts.
“The minute you post it, it’s there forever,” Allen said. “I can go back and get a search warrant and get everything since the day they started. Every picture they put on, every comment they made, every text that they sent. It’s always there.”
After the assembly, Arakelyan took the microphone to remind students of the consequences of bullying.
“If you decide to go there and bully somebody, you will get a consequence because you’re not going to be able to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was bullying,’” she said. “You’re not going to be able to use excuses anymore. From this point on, you cannot say…‘I didn’t know what it meant.’”
-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan