Anti-Bullying conference urges communities to help slow bullying - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Anti-Bullying conference urges communities to help slow bullying

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KTIV) -

Students have a lot of stress at school, these days. It can be anything and everything, from homework to tests.

Unfortunately, some have experienced something much more painful. That's why bullying was the focus of a day-long summit in Des Moines that drew state and local leaders, and hundreds of students.

You've probably heard the details from someone you know.

"They would get into fights, they would threaten each other and stuff, and sometimes the teachers weren't even aware," said Celeste Charchalac, a senior at Sioux City's North High School.

Charchalac was bullied a lot when she was younger.

"Since I'm kind of short by some standards, in elementary they would bully me and put me down or something, or sometimes it was because I'm a minority," said Charchalac.

She's one reason why state and local leaders were in Des Moines, to show that communities need to stand together against bullying.

"I think that they're here so they can get information and be leaders in their school districts, so they really start raising awareness when they go back to prevent bullying," said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

More than 1,100 students went to different breakout sessions where they focused on several aspects of bullying including health issues, cyberbullying, and of course, how to stand up to bullying.

The superintendent of Sioux City's public schools, Dr. Paul Gausman, shared his own memories of bullying as a middle schooler.

"I remember as if it were yesterday, though, sincerely being scared as a seventh grader. I had to go through this gerbil run, filled with ninth graders and of course, I thought that they all had ill intentions," said Gausman.

Gausman also showed parts of the documentary, Bully, which featured students from Sioux City schools. He says, originally, it was difficult to take part in the filming because of what it could reveal, but Gausman also knew they'd learn a lot. He's watched the Bully documentary so many times now, he's lost count.

"Every time I watch it, I pick out something that I could have done better," said Gausman.

"Probably a lot of the students in there it could resonate. I really admire him for letting them do the documentary, to acknowledge that it's going on," said Reynolds.

Now, kids are already starting to see changes. And state leaders say Sioux City could lead the way with mentoring programs that prepare kids for what can come with bullying.

"We know that there are those who will exercise whatever power and control they can to put others in an inferior position, but we need to do all we can with our students to build resiliency and to have them be proud of who they are," said Gausman.

Today, Charchalac is a leader for North High's M.V.P. program, which mentors sophomores and freshmen, and welcomes them to share their fears, so they're ready for bullying.

At the summit, Governor Terry Branstad announced a new resource for all Iowans concerned about bullying and youth suicide. The service is available 24-7.

"Your Life Iowa" is a phone call or text away at 855-581-8111.

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