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Gay high school track athlete helps teachers combat bullying at his school

Last week I wrote about how an openly gay track athlete in Pennsylvania needed some tips on how to address teachers at an anti-bullying seminar at his high school. The athlete, Craig Cassey Jr., has now blogged about the presentation he made with other students. It moved many teachers to tears.

“I’m proud of you, all of you, for being so brave” my Chinese language teacher managed to utter, her tears audibly hanging back, as she spoke to me via phone the day after our presentation. “We want to change, we need to change,” she confided with conviction softly- and as these words processed, I smiled understanding that our presentation had worked. If anything, we had initiated change, and what more can we ask for?

Craig and six fellow students showed that bullying was not just an issue for gay and lesbian students, but affected a wide range of people. They first showed the powerful "It Gets Better" video by Fort Worth, Texas, councilman Joel Burns. They then made a presentation that outlined some tips for teachers. They included:

Teachers Need Cognizance
A common misconception amongst students is that a teacher sees and hears everything when she’s in the same room. ... Add a few watchful teachers to the hallway and suddenly a lot of the bullying stops.

Support Needs Visibility
Many of the teachers looked surprised to hear that our strongest recommendation was increased visibility in support. ... a majority don’t remind students of their availability [to talk] – ever. The night after our presentation, I received three [Facebook] messages from various teachers asking just how to do this.

Where To Go From Here
Because our time felt cut short, my peers and I agreed to propose a project – a “How to” for teachers who want to help.

Using suggestions sent in to readers of his blog, Craig will create a PDF for teachers and students to use to allow them to better combat bullying.

Craig is an impressive person who is driving change at his school. He realizes it's not easy and takes hard work, but he is more than eager to do it. Being right didn't stop him from being nervous the night before the presentation, but a text from his coach allowed Craig to sleep soundly. “Good luck on your presentation tomorrow, ~ Coach.”

If you have suggestions for how schools can combat bullying, join the conversation over at Craig's blog.