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Displaying items by tag: bullying

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A director discusses the specifics of scene D-14 with his actors and crew, stressing that 5-6 shots will be needed. Meanwhile, a short ways away on the set, other actors patiently wait on their marks, going over their lines and directions for the upcoming shots. All the while, the cast and crew eagerly await the completion of the last few shots so that can finally take their lunch break for the day.

But this film set is not in Hollywood, or somewhere else far off. It’s right here at the Saratoga Springs Public Library (SSPL). And that cast and crew is not made up entirely of film industry professional. Rather, it is composed of local students, learning about film production for a good cause.

Filmmaker Mike Feurstein returned to the Saratoga Springs area for a five-day film residency as part of the Don’t Wait to UnMake a Bully program, a partnership between his How to UnMake a Bully program and Lisa Bradshaw’s Don’t Wait Project. Through the program, Feurstein works with students in districts nationwide, using roles on a film set to teach them about treating others with respect and how to avoid being a bully. After the in-class lessons, students take what they learn and use their new skills to help produce an anti-bullying PSA. This most recent residency ran from April 17-20, with filming at the library taking place in the last three days.

“We meet the classes for the first time on a Monday and talk about bullying, kindness, citizenship, digital citizenship, cyber security, and things like that for the first 45 minutes,” Feurstein said. “The second 45 minutes is learning how to make a movie, and we learn all the roles, and I tie the roles into civic responsibility. So the sound guy is a good listener, and the director is a good leader as well as a good listener. So we tie in the jobs of a movie set to how you should e behaving in a civilized society.”

This is Feurstein’s second time working with students on a project in the SSPL, having worked there for the first time two years ago. This year, he is working with students mostly from the Saratoga Springs City School District, as well a few from South Glens Falls and Burnt Hills. The short film that they came up with has an appropriately library-inspired theme, with villainous characters coming out of various books and possessing the bodies a various children, causing them to act like bully.

“The Queen of Hearts is acting all boisterous and bossy,” Feurstein said. “And the Wizard of Oz is acting boastful”

According to Youth Services librarian Kali Nagler, the film will premiere to the families of the students and the public in a special screening on June 15, and in the fall, they will feature the film as part of a planned anti-bullying awareness day alongside the first film produced in 2015. The film will also be shared on Feurstein’s YouTube channel, “Unmaker Mike.”

“I think a lot of them are learning that making a movie is hard work,” Feurstein said. “And it’s collaborative, they have to work together, they have to listen.”

All photos by www.photoandgraphic.com

Published in Education
Friday, 04 November 2016 11:58

Bullying: A Father's Story

Corinth — Losing a child is unbearable. How do their parents move on without them? How can they honor their child’s memory?

On October 7, 2003, John and Kelly Halligan were faced with this harsh reality when they lost their thirteen-year-old son Ryan to suicide. After Ryan’s death it was revealed that he was ridiculed and humiliated by his peers at school and on-line.

Some time later John Halligan was asked to speak about Ryan at a school in Vermont. Recalls Halligan, “a guidance counselor in Vermont asked me to talk about Ryan. I presented a slide show with various video clips and songs. I remember struggling with my words while I spoke.”

The presentation then led to a question and answer session. Halligan did not believe that he would leave such an impact on those who listened to him speak. “You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium.”

Over time he started to receive multiple emails complimenting him on his presentation on Ryan. Emails poured in by the bundles. Many filled with compliments on the actual presentation, and some were filled with stories from students apologizing for their involvement in the bullying of other students. Halligan initially thought that his first presentation was going to be his last.

“Multiple presentations weren’t planned at first. But it was an issue that I felt needed more coverage.” However, John found himself giving multiple presentations to various schools. With each presentation, word of its message and its popularity grew. After giving several presentations John decided to leave his job at IBM in 2009 and speak to students full time. For John each presentation is therapeutic.

“It is my way of keeping Ryan’s memory alive. If I can get through to these kids and even save a life then I feel accomplished.”

When asked about his favorite memory of Ryan, John could recall one father-son activity that they shared. “Ryan loved the outdoors. He loved camping. It was sort of our father-son tradition.”

He also recalls his favorite picture of Ryan from a family vacation. The picture shows Ryan in a pool. The expression on his face shows one of pure happiness and his love of life. But these fond memories also serve as warning signs. The last summer that Ryan was alive his father had planned another camping trip. However, Ryan did not seem interested.

“He said that he didn’t want to go. It surprised me since that was one of the things that he loved to do. I didn’t know it then, but looking back now I am fairly certain that that was one warning sign that something was not right. It wasn’t like Ryan to pass on an activity that he always enjoyed,” recalls John.

On Tuesday, November 1, John Halligan will be speaking at Corinth High School. It will be his third time giving this presentation. Says Halligan “since Ryan’s death, we have forgiven the kids who bullied him. It’s not about them. It’s about forgiving them for what they have done and spreading more awareness to an issue that deserves the utmost attention.”

Halligan hopes that his story format touches his audience. “Listen, I don’t have a magic wand in terms of getting my message across to each kid I speak to. I just do it in the best way I know how. Kids learn more from the story-format, rather than just beating facts over their heads. If I can grab the attention of an entire room, and even leave an impact on some students, then I know I have done Ryan justice.”

Since Ryan’s death, his parents have come to forgive those kids who bullied their son. “We’ve since had closure with all who were involved in bullying Ryan. We want kids to realize that this incident really isn’t about the kids who bullied Ryan. It’s more about being an example for these kids in terms of forgiveness,” says Halligan.

Ryan’s Story Presentation for Parents and Students has been given in more than 1,600 schools, and more than one million students have been in the audience throughout the United States, Canada and Columbia. Anyone interested in learning more about Ryan’s story are encouraged to visit www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org for more information.

Published in Education
Friday, 13 May 2016 10:09

Standing Tall Against Bullying

SSHS Girls Soccer Players Tell Board of Ed About Their Experiences

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – An investigation in process regarding an alleged pattern of abusive behavior by Saratoga Springs High School (SSHS) Girl’s Varsity Soccer Coach Adrienne Dannehy was given further, dramatic illumination at the Saratoga Springs Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, May 10. At that meeting, several SSHS students rose before the Board to read statements detailing their experiences on the team, in which they said they were forced to endure repeated instances of humiliation, intimidation and abuse at the hands of their coach.

 

Three students with Varsity Soccer experience read statements regarding their own experiences. Three other students read statements from Varsity players who wished to be anonymous. 

 

Hannah Pendergast, a senior Varsity member, spoke to the Board and said forcefully that “…sports should not be about fear, power and control,” but this was the atmosphere that she and the other students/athletes who stood and spoke in support - Gabrielle Duchaussee, Rachael Blunt, Audrey Fox, Julie Granger and Lexi Bakkalapulo – had to continuously face. Hannah and the others talked about instances of three-hour team meetings where members of the squad were encouraged to browbeat others about their weaknesses, long practices in 90+ degree weather in which their coach walked by/ignored athletes who were vomiting, and many other incidents. “Our basic right of dignity has been consistently violated,” Hannah said, noting that she still feels the atmosphere of intimidation, though her high school playing days have concluded. “I still get sick every time I pass the coach or the locker room. School athletics should not be about this.”

 

Gabrielle Duchaussee, also a senior Varsity member, spoke about the regularity of the intimidating situations and constant negativity the surrounded the team. She made a point to note that “…we are not asking that the coach be fired, but the situation must be monitored and changed.” 

 

Three other students - Rachael Blunt, Audrey Fox and Julie Granger, said that they had decided against playing for the Varsity Girl’s Soccer team because of the atmosphere. But each of them read statements to the Board from Varsity team members who wished to remain anonymous. 

 

But Lexi Bakkalapulo, a sophomore Varsity Soccer Goalie, went on the record. “It has taken a lot for me to step forward, because I have two more years and I feel invisible to coaches I once admired and looked forward to learning from,” she said. “For a long time we suffered in silence in hopes of pleasing our coach, but we realize we never will.” She said that she never cries, but this situation had brought her to tears often. “I don’t want to sound negative or not hopeful for the future, but it’s so hard to be positive when our coach’s style is to constantly punish and criticize. My hope (in speaking out) is that we can have a healthy environment to play the sport we love,” she said. 

 

Later, Lexi told Saratoga TODAY that she is planning to play soccer on the Varsity team next season, but is unsure of what atmosphere she will be facing. Nonetheless, “I stand up for myself and my teammates because it’s the right thing to do.”

 

Following the students’ statements, three fathers - Rick Matteson, Rob Camoin and Joe Sirianni, all with daughters who had played on the Varsity team under Coach Dannehy, in turn spoke in support of the coach and their child’s experiences. Sirianni, who was also the Soccer Booster Club President, noted that he could “…fill the (auditorium) with people who have had positive experiences” with Coach Dannehy. 

 

Coach Rich Johns spoke about the dangers of minimizing or marginalizing the player’s statements. “What you are seeing in front of you is real,” he said, and praised the girl’s courage. “When faced with vertical aggression, it’s important to come up with a plan of action and put it into place.” Coach Johns, noting that he had recently visited South Glens Falls High School, where a seventh grade student had recently committed suicide, said further, “I’m proud the girls came forward. It’s up to us as adults to come up with a way to get them out of a dark place. Let us look at this as an opportunity, an opening to a new beginning.”

 

“Empathy is very important here,” Coach Johns continued, “… the culture that students who speak up are placed in jeopardy has been with us for quite awhile.” He further went on to praise the efforts of SSHS Athletic Director Peter Sheehan, of whom he said, “…inherited this culture and is making great efforts to eliminate it.”

 

Rob Blunt, who coaches a local club soccer team, in addition to having a daughter on the Varsity Soccer team, offered this perspective: “…I have had the opportunity to coach many of the women who spoke tonight, as well as several of the daughters of the gentlemen who spoke in favor of the program. And I do not doubt that their daughters, like mine, were not treated like the players who spoke tonight. But does that make it right?”

 

“I suggest,” Blunt concluded, “that every player on the team should have the opportunity to play the game they love and represent their school without feeling ridiculed.”

 

For his part, Athletic Director Peter Sheehan acknowledged that he was constrained by the necessary confidential nature of an investigation in process, involving his office and school administration. But he stated that “We have been aware of this situation, which has been under confidential investigation, and are continuing to look into this matter,” Sheehan said. “We do intend to make the necessary adjustments as needed.”

 

The issue of Coach Dannehy’s behavior came under increased scrutiny in December of 2015. Several student-athletes, after attending a DASA (Dignity for All Students Act) presentation in a physical education class, reached out to the SSHS DASA Coordinator. Since that time, letters were sent to the Athletic Director and School Superintendents by parents, with follow up contacts with the Superintendents throughout 2016, expressing their concerns. These parents said they had been told that the matter was being handled – but behind closed doors. A May 5 email to the Board of Education from Hannah Pendergast’s mother, Ann Marie, requested the Board get involved in this situation, and “act and respond prior to any vote to approve coaching appointments for Fall 2016,” and led to the students’ appearance before the Board on May 10. 

 

After the Board meeting, Lexi Bakkalapulo’s mother, Tina Smith, expressed her frustration and sadness with the chain of events to date: “I never thought I would find myself asking the educational system to protect the safety and well-being of my daughter and her teammates from one of their employees.”

 

 

This is a story in process. Even if you believe that responsible people have been put in responsible positions, and ultimately will do responsible things, it is a situation worth watching going forward.

Published in News

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