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Bret Hanna
| Wrona DuBois, P.L.L.C.

A University of Utah College of Health doctoral candidate recently teamed with a local middle school to target bullying of children who are either overweight or underweight or because of their race. A survey conducted by Maya Miyairi at the end of the 8 week anti-bullying program conducted at Albion Middle School in Sandy at the beginning of the school year, reports a 7 percent decrease in bullying reported by students. At the outset of the program, 44 percent of students reported being bullied and at the conclusion, that number had dropped to 34 percent.

The program was aimed at middle school age students because it can be such a difficult time for kids that age to understand and process variances in race and body-image from the standard norms of skinny girls and buff boys. The idea was to give the students the tools they need to feel confident in themselves and to convey the message we are all beautiful regardless of race and body type. The program also underscores what students do not understand about bullying behaviors and focuses on how they actually behave in peer groups.

The program is implemented through role playing aimed at improving communication skills and having students develop empathy for others, rather than disdain. And the goal for the future? Expand the project to include parents, teachers and administrators so that all members of the school community are working toward the common goal of a non-judgmental environment.

The need for effective local anti-bullying programs was recently underscored by the suicide of a Taylorsville teen in front of his peers two months ago because he was being bullied for being a gay Asian student. For students like him, help did not come soon enough and it cannot come soon enough for a great deal more. Along the way, people in need of help with bullying and other issues can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Utah CrisisLine 1-801-587-3000. The most important thing to remember is that you or someone you know needs help, speak up and reach out.

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