The Norman Transcript

November 15, 2013

Norman launches new effort against bullying

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — As part of a new citywide anti-bullying awareness effort, nationally-recognized motivational speaker Wes Moore will be featured at a community event at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts, 1809 N. Stubbeman Ave. Admission to the event is free.

Moore was invited to address Norman citizens by a group of city and community leaders who have been working to launch an anti-bullying effort in the community.

Moore is also is the author of the New York Times best seller, “The Other Wes Moore.” Following his studies as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, he served as a paratrooper and captain in the United States Army, with a tour of duty with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. He subsequently served as a White House Fellow and worked as a special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Norman Chief of Police Keith Humphrey, Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano, and many more who wish to tackle bullying as the broad community, workplace and school issue it is, said they hope Moore’s visit will jump-start positive community actions to address and prevent bullying.

Bob Thomas, executive director of the Xena Institute, said bullying continues to be in the headlines.

“It seems like every time we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper, there is a tragic story about someone who has been bullied and either harms themselves or others as a response to bullying,” Thomas said. “Bullying happens of a daily basis in schools, businesses and neighborhoods in communities around the country. It is a common thread that runs through communities, and we decided we wanted to actively take a stand to better understand and address that challenge in Norman.”

In 2012, the group established a community forum in hopes of more clearly identifying the community’s perceptions of bullying. A community listening session was conducted last fall with more than 100 people participating.

“We gained valuable insight from the listening session,” Humphrey said. “It enlightened us to the fact that bullying is much more than a school issue; it is a community issue.”

A common theme from the listening session was that bullying involves more than just victim and perpetrator; it also typically involves silent bystanders whose non-actions enable the bully. Another identified concern was social media allowing bullies powerful anonymity. Ethic, cultural and religious differences are frequent targets of bullies, as are individuals with special needs. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of bullying, many victims do not reach out for help, fearing retribution and rejection.

“Building on our meetings and last year’s community forum, we believe this event with Wes Moore will have a very positive impact, jump-starting Norman to move forward as a community that is ‘Above Bullying’ that wishes to address the multi-layered challenges it presents to all of us,” Siano said.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Wes is joining us for the evening of December 3,” Humphrey said. “He is not only a youth advocate but an individual who has a clear understanding of the challenges we all face with bullying and its impact throughout our communities.”

In addition to hearing from Moore, the event will provide a panel of community leaders to respond to questions about bullying. The evening will be geared to students and adults of all ages. Event sponsors include the City of Norman, Journey Church, Norman Regional Hospital and Norman Public Schools.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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