Linda Lee, co-president of Greendale Against Bullying (GAB), said she knows of about 15 kids who have left the Greendale School District because of bullying. Of those 15, Lee said two are from the elementary level.
According to the GAB website, bullying may peak at the middle school level but really starts in elementary school.
The idea of a fully functional anti-bullying non-profit first came to Lee about two years ago. But she didn't really push for it until a few months ago when -police discovered a fake bomb threat in a Greendale High School bathroom, and the community learned the suspect—a 17-year-old male student —told police he wanted to disrupt homecoming activities due to prolonged bullying.
“A couple of more incidents came up and I said 'That’s it,'” said Lee who is making the organization her fulltime job. “I’m going to take this theory and put it into practice… It gave me encouragement when I heard all the pain and suffering in our own backyard.”
With the help of her co-founding partner Brian Debelak they got to work.
About the GAB Non-Profit
The beginning steps of the GAB began even before the Greendale School District started forming their own anti-bullying task force.
The GAB is made up of parents, business leaders, police officers, a doctor, a psychologist and residents of Greendale. The group formed in reaction to what some call a bullying epidemic in Greendale. It aims to give students and victims of bullying an alternative way to report and combat bullying outside a school setting.
Both groups, the Greendale Schools' task force and the GAB, are trying to combat bullying but the GAB will mediate a situation before it even gets to the district level and avoid incidents being placed on students’ criminal or school records.
“I would have loved to have been there and known about that boy who was being tormented before he wrote on that wall and got a record. We want to prevent this from happening,” Lee said.
The school district has an online bullying reporting option, however, the GAB will provide a third party reporting option that does not involve the district.
The organization works on a four tier reporting process:
First Tier: When a report comes to the GAB, the organization will first discuss intervention methods and individual plans for the student with complete confidentiality. The reporting parent can contact the bully’s parents followed by GAB intervention for meditation between parents and students at the police station.
Second Tier: Involves professional resources.
Third Tier: Will bring in the school district and becomes part of the student’s file.
Fourth Tier: Will involve the police department.
Lee was first inspired by a young girl who went from a happy fifth grader to a depressed bitter seventh grader because she was being bullied. Lee said the girl also wrote a message in a bathroom.
“I cried. I knew the name. I said the name before anyone knew,” Lee said. “I heard that the mother tried numerous attempts in contacting the police. Cyber bullying is horrific. It’s so damaging to these kids. These scars won’t go away."
According to a Greendale School District’s task force student survey results, instances of bullying and harassment generally occur in places where there is little or no adult supervision with the highest volume occurring on social media. Recent student survey results also indicated that not all students are comfortable reporting negative behavior to adults.
The GAB website says, “Physical assaults have been replaced by online bashing using instant messaging, emails, Facebook, chat rooms and web sites which are used to humiliate a peer 24 hours a day; 7 days a week.”
Lee said her son was once a victim of bullying while going to boarding school in China and she had no idea about it until years later when he told her.
“I remember a parent saying how could you not know your child is being (bullied),” Lee said. “They don’t tell anybody. I think about my son. Some people feel bad because they didn’t know. Our children suffer alone and don’t tell anyone. Attitudes needs to change and education is the key.”
Collaborating with the Greendale School District
Lee said she has had a couple of knockdowns along the way.
She said she went to Greendale School District Superintendent John Tharp before he had his own task force.
“We’re really trying to collaborate because I think with collaboration we can go farther,” Lee said.
A message left with the Greendale School District for comment has not been returned yet.
She was able to connect the district with researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Act Now program that works towards bullying prevention for grades 6, 7 and 8.
What's next for GAB
In the last few months the GAB has made long strives. The group has a list of local sponsors and partners that include the local Greendale Walgreens, Greendale Visitor Center, Associated Bank, Shorewest Realtors, Rick’s Fire Service and more. GAB is hitting the ground running in December and will be attending educational training, applying for grants, circulating flyers and handing out anti-bullying yard signs. Click here to check out the website.
“What better way than to get the community involved to help educate the parents and businesses,” said Lee. “We need those collaborations between educators, parents and businesses and I think as a whole we can combat this.”
The organization has a number of upcoming workshops, speakers, events and fundraisers and is working hard to get the word out that “they are here to stay.”
Lee said that bullying that does not stop at the school doors. It can happen at the local Walgreens, Ferch’s and even outside school events.
About 40 students have already agreed to participate in peer mediation training and wear anti-bullying shirts.
“I’m going to make this my full time job,” Lee said. “I’ve spent days that I’ve come home in tears listening to the stories. My heart hurts for the people and parents who are suffering so much.”
Lee is a mother of four and has been a resident of Greendale for 18 years. As a colon cancer survivor Lee has been an advocate and motivational speaker for a number of issues.
"I can always turn a negative situation into a positive one," she said. "I wasn't suppose to be. There's a reason I'm here and maybe this is it.
She has an bachelor's degree in business and graduate degree in leadership and policy. She has also worked and taught at a number of area colleges and has a consulting management firm.
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Greendale Against Bullying meetings will be held at the Greendale Police Department.
Open forum to discuss strategies, solutions, training and prevention.
- Wednesday: November 21st at 6:30pm
- Tuesday: December 4th, at 6:30pm
- Tuesday: December 18th, at 6:30
- Tuesday: January 8th, at 6:30pm
- Tuesday: January 15th, at 6:30
- Tuesday: January 29th, at 6:30pm