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On November 1, an “Anti-Bullying Rally” was held in the Taft 7-12 auditorium for the student body, as well as for parents and community members who were in attendance. They opened up about their personal experiences while attending school within our school district.

Several students had admitted to being “cutters” and that they do so to deal with the pain they felt inside. One student had been “free” from cutting since January—which drew a round of applause.

Another stated that it is “easier to NOT let (feelings) out than to keep it in.”

This brings to mind why feelings are not known to others: a selective way to hide feeling different, or a lack of knowing where to turn for help. Certain bullying experiences in the school environment has shown that feelings are not to be shared in an unsafe peer (or often family) environment.

Other students stated they had attempted suicide, including one who pondered jumping off a bridge, but was supported and loved by a (named) friend, who was there for them and helped them through.

One young student shared that there had been two suicides in the family and felt that it had not affected the student, but understood the need for support and love: “Don’t just say ‘I’m here for you—BE THERE for someone.”

Another student who had the courage to stand up as being part of the LGBTQ community, was overcome with deep felt emotion, making it difficult to speak openly about the bullying that was constant at school. The message was heard: supportive students came forward-physically surrounding the student for bravely speaking up.

Being in attendance at this rally provided a true cross-section of the rich diversity that exists in our society and local community. It sadly reflects how this also mirrors the current attitude of non-acceptance and denial for those who do not fall into specific silo categories of humanity.

It was not shocking to hear that this attitude is generated within family circles themselves, and permeates into the upbringing of children within that mindset. A student had admitted to being “bi,” to which the parent said, “I will still love you, but I will never look at you the same.” The student broke out in tears sharing this traumatic rejection.

It was evident during the entire “open mic” rally forum that teasing at school (and often at home), is viewed as bullying. It was a moving, heartfelt experience to witness these true shared emotions through the eyes of impressionable and maturing young adult/students.

Among the community members in attendance were parents who had gone through the Lincoln City school system in their youth, and shared their stories of how they had been impacted by bullying in their young adult lives.

It was astounding to learn that this same pattern of bullying has continued for so long, too long.

One adult bluntly stated to the student group, “I know some of you here in attendance are here to get out of class, but listen—and then DO SOMETHING.”

In their closing summary, the student leaders, OUR future leaders, reminded the group that “we can’t change what’s been done in the past, but we can move forward from here.”

I wish every community member could have been present in that auditorium to hear from students, who bravely spoke up and those who spoke of determination to make all people feel loved and supported in their school and in their community. I only hope that we, as adults, will listen to and continue the leadership from our student voices; that we will help make our schools and community a welcoming and supportive environment - to learn and grow, and to accept our differences - or we won’t survive as a civil society.

Thank you, Taft Students, for speaking out. We adults ARE listening, and support you, and will work to DO SOMETHING to show it.

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