NEW YORK—There was an awkward silence as the children waited for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to arrive Monday afternoon. Some shuffled their feet and avoided looking at the cameras, while others smiled confidently at the sea of reporters.
“I love tortillas, I’m going to have some for dinner tonight,” Andres Valle, 11, whispered to his neighbor.
Valle was one of the winners of King’s County second annual Legal Lives Anti-bullying Video Contest. Two videos tied for first place, with both teams from P.S. 186 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
In the age of innocence, amid tortillas, spelling tests, and swing sets, the children were asked to stop and think about a serious issue: What is bullying, and how should one deal with it?
The first 90-second, anti-bullying video consisted of a small group of students stating their definition of bullying, why it is harmful, and how it should be dealt with.
“I hope that bullies are not going to bully any more. Some people have committed suicide over this,” Valle said.
The second video was composed of a short skit where an anti-bullying superhero decked in a red cape, Super Nice Guy, explains to bullies that their actions are harmful.
Studies have found that 50 percent of children experience some form of bullying, and 10 percent of children get bullied on a regular basis, Hynes said.
“As a parent of five children and the grandparent of sixteen, that is a very shocking thing for me to hear,” he said.
“Peer pressure can be very effective. If more young people were to take a stand against bullying, then the phenomenon would likely diminish over time.”
Students in fourth through ninth grades throughout Brooklyn submitted a total of 32 videos for the contest.
The award for the winners is to be the “DA for the Day,” when they will spend a day with Hynes, attending his meetings and conferences.
Initiatives Raise Awareness
Some find a notable difference between schools that do not emphasize anti-bullying initiatives versus ones that do.
“It clearly has an impact because the kids themselves are aware of these issues. It adds in a new vocabulary, a new consciousness that a lot of kids at this age don’t have,” said Sam Crick, the program director at NIA Community Services Network.
NIA is a local organization that provides after-school educational support and youth development programs by partnering with schools such as P.S. 186 in Bensonhurst.
“I’ve never got bullied or know anyone that has. … I decided to join in making this video because there are a lot of kids all across the country, and maybe even the world, who always get bullied,” said Fiona Kocillari, 11, one of the winners of the contest.
“I decided to do this video because I hope bullies can see this video,” she said. “I think some people might not realize what they’re doing, that they’re hurting others.”
“Look, the plain fact is that bullying exists because there are no cooperation with parents of children who are bullying,” Hynes said. What may often be overlooked is that the child who engages in bullying may need help as well.
“I don’t believe for a moment that the solution is punishment,” Hynes said. “I think it is more effective for the child to get help from one of our social workers. We have 25 social workers on staff who are available to help folks who identify their children as bullies. Let us help that child.”
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