The Bully Problem: A Call to Action

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Assembly pic.With big black boots and a burly stature, Phil Chalmers’s voice boomed through Metea’s gym: “This is not a normal assembly.” And although it was a Wednesday morning like any other, students sat up and immediately paid attention. Covering a variety of topics, Mr. Chalmers spoke on everything from school shootings, bullying, and violence, to suicide, safety, and substance abuse.

“The video I watched covered so many topics that … we as police officers try to assist the school with,” said Officer Hillgoth who recommended inviting Chalmers after seeing a video of the presentation. Administration and staff found it appropriate considering District 204’s emphasis on safety. “Security has really tightened up this year because of all the recent school shootings. It’s caused us to take a stronger look at  student safety all across the district,” said Principal Schmid.

Although not all students may have found the presentation relevant to their lives, there are certainly those in the Metea community that have had a very personal experience with the topics discussed. “His presentation really hit home with me,” senior Deston Larve said. Compared to previous assemblies on similar topics, Mr. Chalmers cut straight to the topics that mattered the most, warning his audience that school shootings were mainly the result of bullying.

“You definitely see bullying here,” assistant principal Dr. Ross said. “Such as when students are ostracized and sit at lunch tables alone, or when they pass by a table and kids snicker at them.”

More than ever before, bullying has become a prominent issue. “The situation now is worse than it ever has been. There are a lot more suicides now, and kids are a lot meaner because of social media and technology. Before, we had to bully face to face, but now with computers and phones, it’s a lot easier,” said Mr. Chalmers.

“We live sheltered lives, so this was necessary. It was a push in the right direction. We needed to hear it to change our mindset,” said senior Shannon Jean who also went to see Mr. Chalmers’ hour-and-a-half-long evening presentation aimed at adults and parents. Along with seniors Jason Piske, Brigid Sheridan, and Abbey Colclasure, the group agreed on the assembly being a call to action.

Mr. Chalmers’ research points to the fact that many teen school shooters were tormented by bullies, whose constant harassment drove the victims to take extremes. “The one reason I don’t: Hope. That tomorrow will be better. As soon as hope is gone, people die,” wrote teen killer Kip Kinkel in his journal.

The key, however, is in the message.  “If we can stop bullying, we can stop school shootings,” said Mr. Chalmers. As seen within Metea’s own LIFE statement, taking a stand against bullying carries strong support at MVHS. “It’s important to not ignore [bullying], but to do something to respond and take care,” said Dr. Ross.

When Mr. Chalmers speaks, he speaks from the heart. “I grew up in a troubled home, and I [want] to help teens who faced what I did.” Traveling around America to speak to thousands of high school students, he does exactly that, speaking and appealing to teenagers in hopes of preventing any more victims of bullying and  meaningless deaths.

Have something to say about the assembly? Read Part Two of The Bully Problem for more on student reactions!

By Andrea Lin and Madeline White

Photo by Grant Bolle