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Westport teen's video plea against bullying puts issue in spotlight

Westport News
Updated 4:41 pm, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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A video posted on YouTube by an eighth-grade Bedford Middle School student -- in which she pleads for an end to the bullying that she says she has suffered -- is gaining widespread attention, both online and from local school officials.

The 13-year-old girl, who identifies herself only as "Alye," is bathed in an eerie orange light in the nearly three-minute video she titled, "Words are Worse than Sticks and Stones." It was posted March 14 on the popular video website. To see the video go to http://tinyurl.com/westportbullying

The name on the YouTube account is "alyepollack," and a source confirmed the girl's name is Alye Pollack.

The girl does not speak in the video, but instead holds up a series of hand-lettered signs with messages like: "I am bullied. Not a day has gone by without one of these words ..." and the next sign lists a series of insults and epithets, including, "... Fat, Slut, Freak, Ugly ..."

Another sign says, "I don't have many friends. 3? 4?" She also indicates that she has been sad "since 6th grade."

Yet another reads: "I am in therapy/guidance more than in my classes" and another states: "I like my school just not the kids" and another, "Will high school get worse???????"

One of the last signs she holds before the camera reads: "HELP" in large capital letters, followed by, "THINK before you say things. IT MIGHT SAVE ..." "LIVES," reads the following sign.

Melissa Kay, the principal of Bedford Middle School, emailed students' families Friday to alert them about the YouTube video: In that email, Kay wrote:

"We are investigating a recent case of cyber bullying. Today, the school counseling staff and I met with the 8th graders in their teams to remind them of internet safety and consequences of cyber bullying. We encourage parents to have similar discussions at home with your children."

To see the Internet Safety Workshop that recently took place at Staples High School, visit http://teachers.westport.k12.ct.us/internetsafety/

The workshop provides valuable information specific to cyber bullying.

The Westport Board of Education has a policy that mandates school officials to investigate all reported bullying incidents. The policy prohibits all forms of bullying, and penalties for such misconduct include a range of sanctions, including expulsion.

"We've been very rigid about being intolerant about bullying," Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon told the Westport News on Monday. "If there's any sign that a kid's in trouble, we act on that immediately."

While declining to comment specifically on Pollack's video, Landon added that school officials depend on students and parents to help stamp out bullying.

"We're only as successful as the reporting that is made to us by students and parents," he added.

The video had attracted 67 comments posted on YouTube as of Friday afternoon, but after news accounts about her plea began circulating, there were nearly 400 comments by Tuesday morning, including several that make specific references to Westport.

One comment, allegedly by a fellow Westport middle school student, says:

"I'm also in 8th grade, I go to coleytown. Now I know I can't say I know what your going through, or that I can relate to you as well as some of the other people here because that wouldn't be entirely true. But one thing I have complete confidence in saying is that you are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. You should never let things that other people say define you because you were put on this earth to do something amazing, and seeing some one with so much courage and strength ..."

Another says: "Alye, I really think it will be better for you in high school at Staples, I have 3 kids who have gone through and they found it to be a much more liberal and welcoming place than middle school. Middle school is never easy, stay strong and I hope and pray things get better for you."

These comments are from another YouTube posting: "Hi Alye -- I was bullied relentlessly for three years at Staples. I can totally understand and relate to how you feel. I am so sorry you have to endure this but trust me, those people who are saying all those hateful things are not worth it. They are all painfully insecure and bullying together makes them feel better. If you ever want to talk, please don't hesitate to message me! You are not alone!"

The video has also elicited video responses. A girl whose YouTube account name is "NaturalBornKiller024" says she is a 10th-grader who has been bullied since the second grade. She advises Pollack to shield herself from bullying by maintaining close contact with her friends.

"If you find people and stick together and never leave each other's side, that should work," she says in her video.

Another girl, who identifies herself as a freshman named Jessica, narrates her story, like Pollack, with signs. She, too, offers a supportive message.

"Keep yr head up high and if your high enough yur in the clouds!" she says.

The issue of bullying is in the spotlight in Connecticut as new anti-bullying legislation is on its way to the state Senate floor after it was unanimously approved Wednesday by the General Assembly's Education Committee.

The proposal would require school districts to include online harassment of students, also known as "cyberbullying," in their anti-bullying policies.

The bill also calls for all school employees to receive training to prevent, identify and respond to bullying.

Under other provisions of the bill, school employees would have to report bullying to the school's principal or safe school specialist within one school day of learning about or witnessing an incident. The principal or specialist would then have to investigate the issue within 10 days.