Thursday, October 29, 2009

JC Pohl helps Escondido students turn against bullies

When they're ready to get really serious, schools will also do something about teachers who bully students and teachers who bully other teachers.

Turning against bullies
By Rose Marie Scott-Blair
San Diego Union Tribune
October 29, 2009

Have you ever been punched, tripped, kicked, shoved or had a rumor spread about you?” filmmaker JC Pohl asked students at Escondido's Bear Valley Middle School at a special assembly last week. About 350 seventh-graders in were the room, and they all stood up.

“Now, if you have ever done that to anyone else, sit down,” Pohl said.

Five students remained standing.

In three years of taking his Teen Truth Live assemblies on bullying to about 350 schools in 20 states, Pohl said that 99 percent of the 400,000 students his group has reached say they have been bullied or have bullied someone else.

Pohl, a San Diego native who lives in Los Angeles, and his partner, fellow filmmaker Erahm Christopher, were prompted by the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., to create a message for children.

“After Columbine we were frustrated because the media just talked to adults, and we felt that students were the ones who could explain why this happened,” Pohl said.

So they gave cameras to five California students to film their lives for a year.

Using 100 hours of raw video from students and security camera footage from Columbine, they produced the award-winning documentary, “Teen Truth,” the centerpiece of their assemblies.

Bullying can be anything from “a bad attempt at humor” to physical violence, and includes intimidation, teasing, labeling and put-downs, Pohl told the students Friday.

“The result is the same. It causes anger, and if kids hold a lot inside, they can explode and may even kill someone,” Pohl said.

In the past 13 years, 148 students and 27 teachers have been killed in school violence in 26 states and 14 countries, and 195 students have been wounded, according to figures compiled by Pohl. Twelve students and one teacher were slain at Columbine.

“Students are the eyes and ears of the school. If you see it or hear it, report it,” he said. “Start doing something today to make a difference. Be more understanding, show compassion, learn how to love each other.” ...

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