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Examiner
  • Anti-bullying program urges kids to talk 

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  • By Brandon Dumsky
    brandon.dumsky@examiner.net
    Sunny Vale Middle School presented how they handle student bullying issues at the Blue Springs Board of Education meeting Monday. The program is called "Talk About It."
    The web-based program is designed for students to anonymously communicate to either teachers, school counselors or administrators on problems relating to bullying.
    Students are given their own account to log in to "Talk About It" on the Internet and can write about problems they are personally experiencing or report on other students dealing with bullying.
    "The aim of the program is to resolve issues and concerns within a 24 hour period," said Dan Hicks, Sunny Vale Middle School counselor.
    Not only does Talk About It pertain to bullying, Hicks said that it is also used as a resource to reach out to students enduring other problems such as peer pressure and unfortunate situations at home.
    And if a particular student mentioned on the program is at the risk of being in danger, the anonymous sender's identity can be revealed for safety reasons, according to Hicks.
    "(Talk About It) avoids anything unpleasant," Hicks says.
    The Sunny Vale representative said the Talk About It programs helps an average of three to four students per day and about 600 students so far in total since the program's inception.
    Another similar program Sunny Vale has implemented is called "Blue Dot."
    Created by a teacher in Ohio, Blue Dot is aimed to prevent students thinking about committing suicide. Another Sunny Vale school counselor, Megan Callanan, explained the program. Callanan said how Blue Dot works is teachers choosing to participate simply display a blue dot icon on their classroom door indicating they are available to talk to students experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts.
    "They (teachers) can drop whatever they are currently doing and prioritize their time to talk to students contemplating suicide," says Callanan.
    "Some kids need this kind of proactive program," remarked Blue Springs school board president Dave Wright.
    Special recognitions
    Blue Springs South High School swim coach, Errich Oberlander, and his swimming team were recognized for their efforts in helping out a rival swimmer at Lee's Summit North High School stricken with cancer.
    The swim team has helped raised more than $10,000 to help Lee's Summit North swimmer Sam Smith and his family to fight Sam's battle with cancer.
    "It was a great team effort, but the parents were the leading force behind it," said Oberlander. "Without them, this would never happen."
    Oberlander mentioned he and his team were inspired by 16-year-old Smith's story of how he continues to swim for his school's team despite undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
    Page 2 of 2 - The swim coach said whenever members of the team thought about missing a practice, they would refer to Sam's battle with cancer.
    "It really set the tone for this year's team," Oberlander continued. "It lead to the team's slogan 'What's your excuse?'"
    ---
    Blue Springs High School football coach, Kelly Donohoe, and six students representing their 2013 football team were congratulated by the school board on winning their Class 6 State Title last month. The win marks the 30th state championship victory for the school in athletics and the fifth football championship.
    "This team had great character and the whole bunch worked hard this season," Donohoe said. "We give thanks to the community for their support."
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