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updated: 12/14/2012 8:17 AM

Kane prosecutors on bullying: Speak up

State's attorney's office brings program to Batavia High School

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It's perhaps an obvious first step, but one of the best ways to stop bullying is to let someone in authority know that it's happening.

That was the central theme Thursday as Kane County State's Attorney officials took their anti-bullying program to Batavia High School.

"The only way to effectuate change is to report it," Assistant State's Attorney Jamie Mosser told a group of parents. "If you don't tell anybody about the bullying, it's going to continue. If you say something about it, there's a possibility it will end. Isn't that better?"

The state's attorney's office has had a program in place for years but recently pushing the campaign harder in middle and high schools.

Officials had spoken to students at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia. Rotolo and Batavia High School both have hotlines where bullying can be reported anonymously. The number at Rotolo is (630) 465-0767; the high school's number is (630) 492-1247.

Mosser and Batavia High School police liaison officer Chris Potthoff stressed that parents need to communicate with their children and not be afraid of invading their privacy, especially on social media websites like Facebook.

They also acknowledged that kids don't want to be ostracized for reporting bullying, but assured parents that tips left at the hotline won't come back to the person who originally reported it.

"We always bring it in through a third party so it's never directed back to the victim," Potthoff said. "We use all the different strategies to bring the issue up without pointing the finger at the person who brought it to us."

Mosser also relayed some of the signs that a child is being bullied, such as making up excuses not to go to school and being moody and withdrawn. On the flip side, bullies may show little empathy toward others, have a need to dominate other students and wind up with unexplained goods that likely were stolen.

Mosser urged parents to be persistent if they notice changes in their kids and to talk to school officials about it.

Mosser and Potthoff also cautioned about cyberbullying, saying even seemingly anonymous comments can be traced back to the sender, and a digital photograph that was once private can be shared with others instantly.

"Students think they can do something anonymously on the Internet. They can't," Potthoff said.

"We do end up charging these offenses because we can track down where they occurred."

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