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Erie Couny lawmaker honors local anti-bullying effort; calls for tougher state laws

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By Michael Mroziak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-988948.mp3

West Seneca, NY – Bullying has been happening for generations, but more recently it has become a mainstream topic following the suicide of an Amherst teen who reportedly suffered frequent abuse by bullies.

At West Seneca West Middle School, students and teachers have been involved in an anti-bullying program that predates the tragic death of Jamey Rodemeyer in Amherst. This program has become a source of inspiration for Erie County Legislator Christina Bove, who will at Thursday's Legislature meeting ask her peers to pass a resolution that urges New York State to improve upon recently passed legislation.

"I took a look at the New York State law that was put into effect having to do with dignity of students, and I realized that it did not go far enough," Bove said. "It did not include cyberbullying."

Indeed, the dynamics have changed from a generation ago when bullied students could escape their tormentors when the school day ended. Now bullies continue their attacks online with social media, creating a 24-7 problem for their victims. West Seneca School Superintendent Dr. Mark Crawford says schools can control what happens within their walls, but off school grounds they need help from parents.

"One of the things that must be said about bullying is that so much occurs at home, with cyberbullying and so forth," said Dr. Crawford. "We're only going to be as effective at dealing with bullying to the degree that parents are working cooperatively with us."

Among the students honored by Bove at West Seneca West Middle School on Wednesday was Julianna Owczarczak, an 8th grader who joins her peers and suggests that ending bullying starts with simply offering more respect for their peers.

"It's something that needs to be spread throughout the whole state, and the whole state needs to know that bullying is very hard," said Owczarczak. "I obviously would not want it happening to me, so I don't want to do it to anybody else. That's the most important way that we need to prevent it. Just by, you know, the golden rule, if you don't want it happening to you, you don't do it to anybody else."

Bove, while acknowledging the school's "Take Action Against Bullying" program, read a passage from a participating student.

"You don't have to be friends with everyone. You don't have to like everyone. But you never need to hurt anyone," Bove read from the student's passage.