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October 2, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Bullying is best tackled by students, teachers

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About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Ariel Higuchi of Green Valley High School writes about issues covered by her group, Home in Nevada.

Are current policies doing enough to prevent bullying in schools? Or to improve our educational system? What can be done to lower the fatality rate from accidents?

The above questions are issues our local and state policymakers face on a daily basis. But why not ask the people directly affected by these issues? Why not ask the children who are being bullied on a daily basis, or those who sit in the back of their classroom of 40 or more students who are most affected by the school’s budget cuts? Why not talk to the students who bike or walk to school every day who have gotten in an accident?

On Nov. 20, those students were asked. High school students from throughout the valley met for one day to discuss issues they were passionate about, issues they felt they could affect if only their voices were heard for once.

I personally am passionate about issues here at home and was placed in the Home in Nevada discussion group, where I met 28 other students who came ready with stories to tell and arguments to hear.

We began by talking about how schools should handle different forms of bullying and the rising issue of cyberbullying. One of the students in my room gave an example: At her school, kids set up a fake Twitter account from which they directly name and make fun of their peers; nothing has been done about the issue thus far.

Although most acknowledged that bullying is a problem, many agreed that it is difficult for the state to handle. Instead, the issue should be tackled by those who see bullying on a daily basis — by the students and teachers, through supporting clubs that serve as safe havens for students who feel bullied at their respective schools.

We also advocated that the state recognize the issue with programs at the elementary school level in hopes that the younger children could learn right from wrong while still unscarred and open-minded.

After talking about this issue for the majority of the first session, we moved on to other questions in which the room was much more divided: legalization of prostitution, gay marriage and medical marijuana.

With regard to prostitution, some argued it was morally wrong to allow people to legally sell their bodies while others argued that prostitution will occur regardless and legalization would make the process safer, as there would be more regulation and the industry could be taxed. Gay marriage and medical marijuana also became issues of ideological, religious and moral differences. The effect on Nevada’s economy also was considered.

One of the most interesting questions was presented by our debate monitor, Robert Stoldal, who asked if we thought the views of the youth today were and would be significantly different from those of our parents.

Answers varied, but most agreed that growing globalization and the ability to communicate our ideas would play a key role in determining whether or not the statement was true.

My cousin, a former Sun Youth participant, once told me, “Some subjects are just so politically/morally divisive that it’s difficult to reach one solution that everyone supports. Sometimes, we just have to agree to disagree.” This was precisely the case in my group. However, the one thing we could all agree on was that the Sun Youth Forum allowed us to open our eyes, ears and mouths so our voices could be heard.

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  1. Bullying is a type of negative behavior that has been around since the beginning of time and human interaction. In today's world, we still see bullying happening, so completely erradicating it might not be possible, but there are measures to bring it into check.

    Dominance starts early in life, so learning to behave appropriately begins before a child enters school. Whatever a child has learned growing up in the their home will be practiced outside the home while they are in public places and at school.

    As Ariel Higuichi observed, "Although most acknowledged that bullying is a problem, many agreed that it is difficult for the state to handle. Instead, the issue should be tackled by those who see bullying on a daily basis -- by the students and teachers, through supporting clubs that serve as safe havens for students who feel bullied at their respective schools.

    We also advocated that the state recognize the issue with programs at the elementary school level in hopes that the younger children could learn right from wrong while still unscarred and open-minded."

    In recent years, bullying has been more aggressively addressed with media blitzes as "Flip the Script," and organizations as Josh Stevens' "Be Kind" program, and Clark County School District's active movement in setting anti-bullying policy, opening schools to anti-bullying assemblies, and the easy access, online "Report Bullying" for anyone who is somehow involved or witnesses it. All of these are steps in the right direction towards keeping bullying incidences in check and through anti-bullying education, reducing potential events of bullying.

    Bullying has an adverse impact in our school's classrooms. It not only hurts the individual being bullied, but creates a climate of fear, distrust, and pain. Effective learning cannot possibly take place when children are occupied with bullying. The process addressing bullying must be immediate to work and be most affective, once bullying has been reported.

    Many thanks to the Sun Youth Forum for yearly gathering our area's young people to have these important conversations.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star