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Staff at Iowa high school have eyes opened about bullying

Jermaine Pigee, The Hawk Eye –

A short teenager with braces and thick glasses stuttered slightly when he asked Jim Jelinske, his guidance counselor, to stay in his office.

Jelinske will never forget that day.

“He said ‘I’m not going outside anymore because every time I go out there, they hurt me,’ ” Jelinske said.

Jelinske advised “Brian” to go to the playground and try one more time to make friends. The children bullied him so much, he ran into the street crying. He was killed by an oncoming car.

“He will never graduate from high school, drive a car or get married,” Jelinske said. “I live with that every single day.”

It motivates him as he tours the country speaking at schools to raise awareness about bullying. He brought his presentation to the Burlington School District Wednesday morning.

He has spent 22 years working in the human service field in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

He is also the owner of Creative Education Services, which conducts various programs for businesses and schools.

Jelinske defined bullying to the audience by using the acronym RIP.

“The “R” stands for a repeated offense,” he said. “It’s done over and over again and there is a pattern of behavior there. What’s important is we have to find ways to understand when that is a pattern of behavior for a young person. Kids are slick with this stuff and they do it when parents are not looking.”

Jelinske said the “I” stands for an imbalance of power and a person’s social status.

“The person getting bullied may not be who you think. There may be a very smart and athletic kid that is hurting,” he said.

“Even little kids can have bullying behavior. When we begin to take a stand against that type of violence, we begin to diminish the opportunity for kids to go home and put themselves in a closet with a rope around their neck.”

The letter “P” stands for purposeful and the intent behind it.

“We have to teach our kids to tell other kids what hurts,” Jelinske said.

“I don’t care if you think I have a big nose because that is not your decision. I get to call that. But, if I call that and you keep doing it, there is a pattern there and it fits the description.”

Jelinske also said stopping bullying requires a change of culture in schools. Parents, educators and students play a role, said Jelinske, who used humor along with heartbreaking stories in his presentation.

“No child should be afraid to go to school,” he said.

Jelinske also said most bullying is not physical abuse but relational bullying that includes humiliation, gossiping, spreading rumors, rejection and exclusion, embarrassment and name calling.

But some children might not consider such behavior as bullying, he added.

Jelinske listed examples to drive home his talking points.

In one, he compared to students to cans of Diet Coke.

“There are a lot of Diet Coke cans walking around,” he said, holding a can of Diet Coke. “They look normal when they walk down the hallways, but they are in an environment of hate, prejudice, put downs, they are tortured and they are called names.”

As he is speaking, Jelinske shook the unopened can of Diet Coke.

“The can still looks the same, but when you open it up, it will explode and that explosion can come out in many different ways, such as Columbine and Virginia Tech and many other sources of violence that have occurred in out country over the past 15 or 20 years.”

Nicki Moad, a preschool teacher at North Hill Elementary School, said she really enjoyed Jelinske’s presentation.

“Within his presentation, he talked about establishing relationships with the parents and the kids,” Moad said.

“That is so important because the minute the students come in, that’s when we have to establish a relationship with the students. Once you establish that relationship, you establish that rapport with the students and parents and once you have that, its valuable and precious and it moves everything along,” she added.

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