With the number of bully-related incidents rapidly increasing in area schools, Coventry Police officers decided to teach local children how to calmly and assertively resolve bully situations.
About 20 Coventry children ranging in age from four to 10-years-old and their parents showed up at Family Fitness Zone on Saturday morning to learn the invaluable lessons. School Resource Officer Jason Burlingame, Sergeant Matt Blair and Officer Ryan DeSisto began the presentation by showing an educational video starring McGruff the Crime Dog that illustrated several different bullying scenarios and how children can resolve them.
Some of the key points were:
- The importance of standing up for yourself but using respect when doing so.
- Walking away from a bad situation so it will not escalate.
- Talking to an adult that you trust about the situation.
- Using strength in numbers to stand up for someone else being bullied.
- Trying to talk to the bully about why they are mistreating you and perhaps even make friends.
The officers engaged their audience by asking questions about situations at school and at home that might lead to bullying and what kids thought they should do about them. Third-grader Makayla Maiato, her mother Cassandra Carlson and Carlson's boyfriend Ron LaPlante shared their months-long experience about Makayla being bullied in school, both on the playground and in gym class and how it was resolved by getting teachers involved.
The children were also taught the concept of Stranger Danger and how important it is not to talk to people they do not know or go anywhere with them. They were then given demonstrations on defense tactics that they could use in the case of an attempted abduction.
Family Fitness Zone Manager Tina Sroka, who contacted Sgt. Blair about planning the event, was happy with the turnout and knows how important it is to spread awareness to children about bullying.
"We've had a great response from the parents and the schools in town," said Sroka. "As we are a family gym we felt it was important to bring this here. We really just wanted to reach out to the kids."
The officers hope to give this presentation to children in higher grade levels as the bullying epidemic unfortunately does not stop after elementary school.