PBS to feature local students involved with anti-bullying effort

An Iowa Public Television special that focuses on bullying will feature four Marshalltown High School students.

The MHS Not In Our Town students – Trey Quick, 15, Libby Crawford, 16, Rachel Faircloth, 17, and Nicole Leyen, 18 – took part in a panel discussion led by PBS officials Wednesday.

The students said the panel facilitators asked them to speak about their experiences with bullying. Although they said the discussion was more formal than they expected, it touched on some key issues surrounding bullying.

In particular, facilitators inquired about bullies’ use of social media to target their victims.

“It’s a lot more real when it happens on social media,” Leyen said.

Crawford said getting the school involved when social media is used is much more difficult, and while social media bullying is easier to point to because it offers documentation, it is harder to enforce. Kids also have more trouble distancing themselves from it because of its pervasiveness.

Laurie Rink, MHS faculty member, said social media amplifies bullying’s effects because everyone knows what is said. It’s like a rumor times a thousand.

Overall, the kids said they are happy with the school’s involvement.

Quick said the other schools he went to didn’t take bullying seriously. People would call him gay, and administrators would do nothing. That doesn’t happen at MHS. However, he added that MHS students don’t tease and ridicule people as much as in other schools he has attended. Everybody is generally more accepting.

“It’s not like a teen movie,” Faircloth added.

Rink said faculty and administration work hard to be approachable, to provide a good support system.

Jason Staker, communications director for the school, said the school tries to teach its kids to not be bystanders, and that starts by kids having positive role models. The NIOT group is on the right track, he added.

“These kids, they are intelligent. They have learned how to persevere, not only how to cope but to support each other,” he said.

Part of understanding how to address bullying, the kids said, is to understand why bullies bully. Rink brings an atypical perspective: she used to be a bully. She said having grown up in foster care caused her to lash out and keep people at a distance. Now, she uses that touchstone to help curb bullying.

“It is just super hard to put yourself in a bully’s shoes,” Crawford said.

The students said it is still in need of members enthusiastic of the effort. It meets 7 a.m. every other Thursday in Rink’s room, No. 208.