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School closed when bullied student made threat
AMHERST, Mass. — Amherst school officials say they’re taking unspecified disciplinary action and other steps against students who played a role in bullying and racial harassment at Amherst Regional High School in January.
Schools Superintendent Maria Geryk released findings on Friday of a month-long investigation. The school is taking steps to develop an online investigation reporting system.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that Geryk would not provide specifics about the individuals involved, discipline handed out or the interventions school officials are using.
She also would not comment on whether any faculty or staff members have been disciplined or face action.
The investigation began following a Facebook post on Jan. 25 by a student claiming he had been carrying a gun into the high school to protect himself from bullying. School was closed on Jan. 27 in response to the post.
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Only a beast hurts without caring
No conscious for what he’s done
A laugh at the end of his task
Dripping sweat upon his victim
He laughs as the body twitches
He waits with baited breath as he hears each wailing gasp
He’s waiting for that one last breath
Before he can go on trying
To target his next victim
But to his disappointment
His victim arises
Shocked at where his strength came from
for he thought he lay there dying
Had he met his match
for his victim was no victim anymore
He laid down a beating on the beast
Who was no longer smiling
In fact, he began to wail
and then lay their gasping
But his only savior would come
From the ambulance that would
Carry him away to his new home
Where he surely would lose his freedom
Maybe now the beast would be tamed
or continue to get his own beating
Just as he deserves
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Was written by Felina Silver Robinson
on Saturday, March 1, 2014
When is enough, enough? By Felina Silver Robinson
Pressure: a constraining or compelling force or influence: the social pressures of city life; financial pressure.
Each of us, adult and children alike, face daily pressures. It’s not easy for any of us. But imagine the struggle of an undeveloped adolescent mind swarming with hundreds of thoughts through their academic day. Did I get it right? How can I stand up and talk in front of all of my peers when I can’t even talk to my best friend? Do they make fun of me when I’m not looking? Why don’t they like me? Why does my teacher pick on me all the time? Why can’t I talk to my teacher? Why do they give us so much homework? Will my parents be mad at me if I can’t get everything done? Will my teacher punish me if I can’t finish the work? Everyone of these questions are ones that I’ve heard first hand from my own children, their friends, or children that I’ve listened to during other school related activities. We’ve all been there. It just seems that it might be harder now than it use to be. Expectations are so much higher now because not only has life changed so much, but curriculum as well as the expectations of teachers and the Board of Education. In the New York Times article “Expecting the Best Yields Results in Massachusetts” it is stated that “If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore”. If you think that’s something what do you think about the fact that Massachusetts eighth graders also did well in mathematics, coming in sixth, behind Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. The United States as a whole came in 10th in science and 9th in math, with scores that were above the international average. If you were a school aged child at this time, wouldn’t you feel a lot of pressure to keep up? Not every child across the board is good at math or science. In fact, I know that my three youngest children struggle a lot with math. They all love science though and work hard to do their best at it. Is there best good enough though? It seems that there is more emphasis within the school systems to push forward the children that are strong in Math and any other area of academics. But not enough effort is spent on children that are not as good. There is a nice one hour math tutoring program where high school students come and “help” with math. But the help that is given isn’t necessarily the help that is needed. Many parents don’t have the finances to send their children to private tutors so they fall through the cracks.
The biggest pressure I find is “homework”. Every child from 6th – 8th grade is swimming in homework. 6th graders suffer the most because they are the least ready. In 5th grade they spend so little time doing homework that by the time they reach 6th grade, they are shocked by all that must be done. The day is a long one for all kids, but once homework comes into the picture everything changes. Each kid has at least 5 subjects of homework, with an expectation of no less than 30 minutes for each subject. So that is at least 2.5 hours of homework every day. However, the majority of assignments take at least 1 hour to complete. Most children don’t want to leave things undone because they know it will have to made up somewhere down the line. So then the 2.5 hours of homework turns into the realistic amount of 5 hours. When you think about the fact that our kids have a 6.5 hour school day coupled with 5 hours of homework, mixed in with a school play practice here, and a sports activity there, and don’t forget enrichment classes. Where is the time to socialize or just have some breathing space? Often when a child needs help or didn’t get to finish the homework, they are punished by having to stay indoors and there goes the only real time they may have had to socialize for the day.
So our kids end up coming home tired, overworked, picked on and frustrated because there was not enough time to have any worthwhile fun. Add all of this up over time and you get kids with emotional breakdowns, kids who feel like they just can’t take it anymore, kids who feel they have no friends because they are always being picked on an no one ever does anything about it. This often leads to kids wanting and feeling the need to “commit suicide”. The recent article about the 3 Teen Suicides in Newton. Really floored me and I realized that I really don’t want that too happen to any of my children. Heck, it shouldn’t happen to anyones children. So what are we going to do to fight this battle? What can we do? Reading about what you can do, what you can say, and how to understand what our children are feeling can really help. But more than that, letting our children know that they are not alone and there is someone around that understands what they are feeling and going through really helps. Boston Children’s Hospital circulated the following information: Suicide and Teens, Just so you know, children all over the world are feeling the stresses of homework. Read: Homework overload is stressing our children who need more time to chill-out and relax. We need to arm our children and ourselves with ways to deal with all of life’s pressures so that we are prepared to face all that life has in store for us. I found another article helpful titled: “Resolving Student-Teacher Conflicts“. This article helps your child build the necessary skills to feel comfortable approaching an adult that they may not be so comfortable trusting or relying in. Everyone faces and interacts with people everyday that makes them uneasy and causes them to be fearful. Having the right tools to help them work through their feelings are key to having successful relationships throughout their lives. I find it best to face problems head on as they arise for it becomes emotionally dangerous to hold onto things that cause fear or pain.
I will say one more thing about homework, which is my personal resolution to the homework issue. We are all aware of the fact that homework is used as a method of testing what our children are being taught in the classroom as well as an extension of what there isn’t enough time to finish teaching in the daily classroom. My feeling is that since there are 5-6 subjects in elementary school, that homework is rotated so that there are never more than two subjects of homework per evening and never more than 45 minutes worth of work per subject. Reading of course would continue to happy nightly, but within reason. For example: Monday’s and Thursday’s – Science and Social Studies, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s – English and Math and Friday’s – Health and Spanish.
Aside from the regular pressures, then there is the peer pressure thing. If you’re different, the kids are always going to let you know about it. No matter how much time you spend on anti-bullying, it’s always going to happen and their going to be afraid to tattle on the bullies. If you’re a cool different, all is well and the kids will shake your hand or hug you. If it’s a bad or awkward different than kids just come out and tell you about it and they don’t care if it hurts your feelings, and they will pick, pick and pick on you and at you. Please make sure that you always check in with your kids about bullying. Read: How to talk to your kids about bullying.
We need our children to be as well rounded and level headed as possible. If they are overwrought due to stress and other things then they aren’t really the children we know and love. We see aside of them that we shouldn’t have to see. Children are supposed to be given an opportunity to live as children until they are meant to face young adulthood, which is truly once they reach high school. High School prepares our children for College life and that is another story altogether. They are children once and should not grow up not knowing what being a child is. Don’t hold them back from what they are ready to face, but don’t push them forward unprepared.
I leave you with a last note. What you can’t handle on your own, reach out for a helping hand. Those with knowledge and experience are always willing to share it. But often don’t know their services or expertise are required. The child you help today may be the adult that ends up helping someone else tomorrow.
Take back your life
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The look upon your face is sadness
I wonder what they said to hurt you so
I wonder why they hurt you
Words are often hurtful, but only when they’re meant to hurt
You don’t deserve it
They fault you because you’re different
They fault you because they know you don’t care
You don’t care what they say or what they do
But that’s just what you say
That’s just what you tell yourself
Maybe it’s not true
I see your eyes sadden
I see your body change
With every mean word that falls from their tongues
Your smile only returns when I enter the room
I feel saddened by what they have done to you
I’m saddened that they’ve taken the life from inside you
I wonder how I can help you
Help you find your way back to being you
The you that always smiles
The you that always laughs
The you that knows what they say doesn’t matter
The you that knows you’re the best that you can be
And that’s the best you to be
Whoever you want to be is who you will be
Whatever you want to do is what you will do
When you want to do it you will do it
Move forward with your life the best way you know how
Don’t let anyone or anything get you down or in your way
Take back control
Take back your life
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Take back your life
Was written by
Felina Silver Robinson
On February 10, 2014
Video: Teen girl gets plastic surgery to stop being bullied Fifteen-year-old Renata said she wanted to get plastic surgery so she can stop being teased about her nose. Her decision, supported by a nonprofit organization, is spurring discussion about beauty and bullying.
A nonprofit in New York has an admirable mission: to provide free plastic surgery for low-income children who have facial deformities. Some of the kids who apply to the Little Baby Face Foundation do so because they are being teased over their looks. But is plastic surgery a smart way to help bullying victims?
For 15-year-old Renata and her mother, the answer was yes. Renata had been taunted so cruelly over her appearance that she stopped attending school altogether; she’s been home-schooled for the last three years.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
Watch the Dateline NBC report Sunday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m. ET
Last year, Renata and her mom Michelle, who asked that their last name not be used, read about another girl around Renata’s age, named Nadia Ilse. Bullied over her looks, Nadia transformed her appearance through free plastic surgery provided by the Little Baby Face Foundation. After that story hit the media, the Little Baby Face Foundation received hundreds more calls and applications than usual. Renata’s mom was one of them — she called the foundation and she and her daughter worked on the application. “I tried convincing myself that I am fine the way I am, but I just don’t believe it anymore,” Renata wrote in her application letter.
The idea of using plastic surgery to stop a child from being bullied has some experts very concerned, including New York psychologist Vivian Diller, who has written extensively about the issue.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” Diller asked in an interview with NBC News. “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
Renata’s mom disagrees. To her it’s similar to correcting any other sort of medical problem a child might have. “Parents correct kids’ teeth with braces to make their teeth straighter,” the teen’s mother said. “They’re still the same kid on the inside, but, unfortunately, people are judged on how they look.”
The Little Baby Face Foundation got a huge amount of media attention over the Nadia Ilse story, but doctors at the nonprofit insist they are not running an anti-bullying organization. Dr. Thomas Romo, the director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, runs the foundation, which was started in 2002. Romo has treated children with deformities all around the world and wanted to bring that idea home to the U.S.
The organization’s intent hasn’t changed since its inception: correcting low-income children’s facial deformities, such as a cleft lip, or facial palsy, says Romo. If a child seeks the gratis surgery simply because he’s being teased over his features, he won’t be chosen unless the problem meets the medical definition of a facial deformity.
That’s what happened to Donovan Killgallon, a 16-year-old from Wisconsin who applied to the Little Baby Face Foundation after being tormented over his small chin.
“There were times where people would walk around with their heads cocked back or something, to make it look like they don’t have a chin, to mock me,” he told NBC News. “High school’s hell.”
Donovan ultimately wasn’t chosen by the foundation, because his complaints with his looks were judged to be “cosmetic.”
The point, Romo says, is to transform deformities — something that often does result in a transformed life.
“You take a child, and you change the way they look. To anybody who sees them, they’re good-looking,” Romo told NBC News’ Hoda Kotb, in a segment to air on “Dateline” on Sunday. “That gives the child strength. We can’t go after the bully. But we can try and empower the children.”
Renata was chosen to receive the plastic surgery after Romo diagnosed her with a hemi-facial microsomia, which left her face underdeveloped and caused her nose to lean to the left. It’s the second most common facial birth defect after clefts, occurring in as many as 1 in 5,000 newborns, although that may be an underestimate, because the condition is often not diagnosed, or treated.
Like Renata, many children with hemi-facial microsomia may not even recognize that they have a deformity. All Renata knew was that she hated her crooked nose, and that Romo was offering her a new one. But he offered her something else, too: a new chin, to provide balance to her face, he said. The teenager had never considered her chin to be a problem before, but she and her mother agreed to the implant.
Romo believes that once the deformity is gone, the bullying will likely stop, too.
That’s not necessarily how it will work, experts say. Parents of these children need to make sure their kids understand that though this surgery may “fix” their facial deformity, it will not magically fix all their problems, says Gail Saltz, a New York City psychiatrist.
“They may do the surgery and expect happiness to result, or, let’s say, ‘I’m not going to be bullied anymore,” Saltz says. “But it may not turn out that way, because bullying is complicated, and usually it isn’t down to one physical attribute.”
Research is starting to show that kids with physical deformities aren’t necessarily picked on because of their looks; there are many other factors going on, says Chad Rose, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri. His work focuses on children with disabilities, not facial deformities, but he says much of it is applicable to the children applying to the Little Baby Face Foundation.
“Outside of appearing different in a noticeable way, two of the biggest factors are social skills and communications skills,” Rose says. “Students with low social skills and low communication skills tend to be victims.”
Changing a child’s appearance is an “extreme” decision, but if families decide it’s right, equal attention must be given to that child’s social and emotional well-being in order to effectively address the problem of bullying.
“We are never going to forget the experiences that we carry with us,” Rose says. “We will never forget the victimizing experience. The one message I wouldn’t want out there is that if you are being teased for some type of problem with your physical appearance, that if you simply change your physical appearance that all the bullying will go away.”
In fact, Donovan, the young man who was denied free surgery by the foundation, told Dateline he ended up solving his bullying problem without surgery.
Rose and other experts say it’s important the teens be given a mental health evaluation and counseling, before and after their surgery.
The Little Baby Face Foundation does not offer the children mental health services, but Renata did receive counseling before making her decision to proceed. And although her counselor was initially against the idea of surgery, she eventually thought the procedure would help the teenager to feel better about herself.
A few months after the surgery, Renata’s mother said her daughter was happier than she’d seen her in years. The 15-year-old even plans to return to regular school.
“I feel happy and I feel confident, and I feel like I don’t have to hide myself anymore,” she said.
Keefe was guest of Tom Brady
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —The rain didn’t dampen the spirit of 6-year-old Danny Keefe, who was a special guest of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, our news partners at The Enterprise reported.
Clad in bright yellow rain gear, and surrounded by his teammates, Danny was all smiles as he posed for photographs before the Patriots’ regular season finale against the Buffalo Bills.
Brady invited Danny and his friend, Tommy Cooney, who live in Bridgewater, and their teammates to attend Sunday’s game. The boys each received special gifts from Patriots owner Bob Kraft: a neck tie, a Brady jersey and a football signed by Brady himself.
They walked onto the field with their fathers, Mark Keefe and Tom Cooney; Danny’s brothers, Matty and Timmy Keefe, and teammates Jack Morgan and Danny Doherty.
Danny, the official water coach for the Bridgewater Badgers Peewee football team, made headlines last month when The Enterprise reported his teammates had rallied together to support him after they saw Danny was getting picked on because of the way he speaks.
On Sunday, Danny and his teammates watched pre-game warm ups on the sidelines, posed for photographs with the mascot and two cheerleaders, and were interviewed by television media.
Since his story broke, Danny has been busy on the television interview circuit.
On Dec. 12, the dapper 6-year-old and his friend Tommy Cooney were in Los Angeles to be guests on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Kids rally to support Bridgewater boy who has a speech impediment
WEYMOUTH, Mass. —Hundreds of Weymouth High School students got dressed up Thursday to show their support for 6-year-old Danny Keefe, whose story of overcoming bullying has garnered national attention.
Celebrities like Tom Brady and Ellen DeGeneres have showed their support for the Bridgewater kindergartner after The Patriot Ledger’s sister paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, first reported on friends rallying around him after he was teased for having a speech impediment and regularly wearing a suit, tie and fedora to school.
Weymouth High students were the latest to join the cause to support Danny and take a stand against bullying. Boys dressed in shirts and ties, while girls sported dresses.
Danny posed for pictures, traded high fives with the students and then joined in a girls’ basketball practice after school Thursday.
“I’m really, really, really happy,” he said.