The Norman Transcript

December 3, 2013

Norman community has conversation about bullying

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman community is doing what no other community has done before. It is looking at ways to take a proactive approach toward bullying.

New York Times best-selling author Wes Moore shared his story with the Norman community Tuesday night at the Nancy O’Brian Performing Arts Center to help begin a conversation about bullying.

“I feel comfortable in saying that we’re the first city in the nation to actually take a proactive step in addressing bullying. It’s a major, major concern throughout the world. It’s an issue that occurs each and every day,” Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said. “Anyone can be a bully, but it takes a special person to stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

More than a year ago, a local task force was formed that made a commitment to take a stand against bullying in the Norman community.

“Bullying is often seen as a school issue but is, in fact, a societal issue that impacts all the areas of life and includes every age group. Knowledge of that reality, understanding the fact that bullying is a complex problem resulting from many issues and many causes, the task force recognized early on that responding to bullying must be done as a community together,” said David Spain of the Xenia Institute, which also is committed to taking a stand against bullying.

Moore commended Norman in taking a proactive step, instead of being reactive. Many times, communities will come together when bad things happen, but steps need to take place before that, Moore said.

“The fact is, these conversations and these actions need to happen before tragedies happen,” Moore said.

This community is saying “no longer; we don’t have to wait,” Moore said.

If we’re all going to be in this society that we all truly believe in, that means being proactive. In being proactive, it means everyone must be involved, Moore said.

Everyone must have a voice and feel that their voice matters because if one person doesn’t feel their voice doesn’t matter, that’s one too many, he said. There will always be people who aren’t like us, but society isn’t defined by just us. It is defined by everyone, Moore said.

Part of the process is identifying early the people who are systematically left on the outskirts. Talking about his faith, Moore said if residents worship no other God and take care of his children, then we’re doing our job.

“The greatest communities we have are ones where everybody feels there’s a larger vested interest in them, and they then turn around and feel a larger vested interest in that society,” Moore said.

As the Norman community begins the conversation about taking a proactive approach to bullying, Humphrey said he believes they can make a difference.

“I believe that the initiatives that we are taking are going to continue to make this a very, very high-quality city,” Humphrey said.

A panel comprised of four individuals, with Moore moderating, followed Moore’s speech Tuesday night. The panel included Humphrey; Sharon Heatly, director of guidance and counseling at Norman Public Schools; Dr. Farhan Jawed of Norman Regional Hospital; and Clark Mitchell, founding senior pastor of Journey Church.

Each person represented a group or agency that has made a commitment to taking a proactive stance to bullying.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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