The issue of bullying
There is no doubt that in the past year the issue of bullying has made front-page news. After so many years of it going on it took some beautiful young teenagers to commit the act of suicide to bring to light this issue.
For me it is an issue that hits home because I know far too well what it is like to be called names. In my day, I didn’t quite understand what those names meant except for the fact that they stood for something bad. Today with so much information out there and of ways to get the information out there that teenagers have a better understanding of what those names mean, but it doesn’t make it any better to be called them.
Having the opportunity this past year to visit our local GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) at our Sonoma Valley High School, I was touched by how open these kids were being. It truly made me reflect on my days in school and how much I wish I had a club like the GSA to belong to.
After visiting the high school students, I decided to set up a meeting with Louann Carlomagno, our amazingly wonderful superintendent of schools here in Sonoma Valley. There were two reasons for my meeting. The first was to find out what our schools were doing to combat the issue of bullying and what were the schools plan for teaching LGBT history in 2012, when the FAIR Education Act goes into effect. For those that don’t know, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that mandates that LGBT contributions to society be included in the state’s history and social studies lessons. It is hoped that the FAIR Education Act will help to alleviate the loneliness of the LGBT students and in doing so combat anti-LGBT bullying, thus creating a better climate for all students.
I am happy to report that our school system here is doing a lot to combat this issue. In my meeting with Louann, I learned that aside from having a GSA, the schools also have Safe School Ambassadors in place. Their mission is to collaborate with schools and communities and to engage, equip and empower young people to become change agents and peacemakers in their own schools.
I got to witness firsthand a session this past week at Adele Harrison School when a representative from Community Matters gave a presentation to sixth graders on the topic of bullying. When asked to stand up if they had ever been bullied or have bullied another classmate everyone in the room stood up. I was amazed. I think it was pretty brave of these kids to stand up in front of one another.
I am very thankful to Louann Carlomagno and the staff at Adele Harrison for letting me sits in on this session. I hope that I can be a part of future sessions at our schools so that we can make our schools a safer place for children and the world a better place in which to live so we don’t have to read about another young life cut short.
Gary Saperstein is a transplanted New Yorker, living and thriving in Wine Country. Working in the restaurant business and focusing on hospitality for most of his “so called” adult life he has now started “Out In The Vineyard,” a Wine Country tour and event company marketing the LGBT community. It is his goal to make Wine Country a destination for his community with a chance of getting a date along the way.