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Article posted: 10/15/2012 12:06 PM

Kane prosecutors: Bullying not acceptable

By Harry Hitzeman

The Kane County State's Attorney's Office is taking its anti-bullying program on the road.

It recently finished a three-part seminar for students, teachers and staff at an East Dundee private school and is in the process of completing a program at South Elgin High School.

Ken Becker, principal at Immanuel Lutheran School in East Dundee, where prosecutors talked to students in grades second through eighth, said he would give the program a B-plus.

A key part of the program is having students begin a sentence that begins with the word "STOP," which is short for Stop Treating Other People, and complete it with an example of a bullying behavior.

Becker said for some students it was difficult for them to understand what to write. Others gave extreme hypothetical examples, such as a person being punched, which doesn't necessarily occur at the school on a daily basis.

Becker said he felt the program was worthwhile and helpful and is considering having State's Attorney Joe McMahon's staff return next year.

Originally, the staff was going to have officials talk to students in third grade and older, but it was expanded to include second-graders as well because teachers want to get the message to students sooner. "Bullying is not a major problem here," Becker said of the school, which serves about 230 kindergartners through eighth-graders. "But I'm glad we had it and did it at the beginning of the year. We want to stop it right away."

In the program, prosecutors have three sessions at a school, one each for students, parents and teachers. Assistant State's Attorney Jamie Mosser handles most of the program, which has been around for abut two years.

McMahon said he was surprised to learn some students were using the photo sharing program Instagram to bully others.

He warned that cyberbullying through images can be more hurtful than playground bullying.

"There's a level of permanency there that doesn't exist (compared) to when you say something on the playground," he said.

He noted that his office only gets involved in extreme instances where there is an injury to a person or theft of property.

But McMahon also wants students to know that this type of behavior is not acceptable, and that adults will listen and help.

"You don't have to just take this in silence and think it's normal," McMahon said. "It's not normal and it's not acceptable."

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