Westport High school students from Westport, Crown Point and Moriah had the chance to talk and learn about peer relationships at the Essex County Fairgrounds last week.
The Prevention Team of Essex County held a day of workshops on relationships and peer interaction Oct. 4 at the fairgrounds, with CVES Risk Management Specialist Jeff Sisson leading a discussion on bullying.
“The biggest thing we wanted to do is define what bullying is so we can look at the issue with that understanding,” Sisson, who also gave the opening address to students, said. “One of the biggest challenges when dealing with bullying is that people throw the word out all of the time and we need to start using the word appropriately.”
Sisson said that the key factor in bullying is the repeated nature of the action used by the bully to cause harm — mental or physical — to their victim.
Sisson also explained that looking at just the bully or the victim will not fully solve the problem.
“We need to focus on the bystanders as well,” he said. “That is huge because you cannot change a culture by just focusing on the two people that may be directly involved in the act of bullying. It’s everybody in the school that is part of this. When you have everyone in the district working together, that is the key.”
Prevention educator Angie MacAlpine said the event was held to allow students the chance to talk about relationships in a less formal setting.
“They do not have that time to talk about relationships at school,” MacAlpine said. “They get a chance to talk about how they see each other being treated not only in school but throughout the community.”
MacAlpine said that the students were also allowed to be open about topics that they may not otherwise talk about in a school setting.
“Sometimes you need to be able to have that time where they can talk and we can not just hear but listen to what they are saying,” she said.