September 1, 2013

Maine's new law not last word on bullying

Educators welcome the more uniform statewide policy but say changing the culture within each school is equally important.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

Today's poll: Bullying

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Identical twins Kristen and Katherine Veayo, 18, are seniors at Hall-Dale High School, where they say they’re no longer bullied.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Identical twins Katherine, left, and Kristen Veayo, 18, play a song at their home in Winthrop. Music became their biggest source of comfort after years of being bullied.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

"We still have a lot to do, of course, but we've made great strides," Vander Zanden said.

The biggest need, now, she said, is to give teachers and administrators more professional development and training opportunities. They need to know how to stay one step ahead of the students, especially in the electronic bullying area, where young people often are more tech savvy than their elders.

Hodgkin, the RSU 4 superintendent, said increased awareness has led to an increase in the number of bullying reports in his schools. They are not all cases of bullying, he said, but each claim is an opportunity to move the discussion forward.

"I don't think it ever goes away," he said. "But you can always get better and these new laws have opened a lot of eyes."

The worst ending in bullying cases, of course, is suicide.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For every suicide among young people, there are more than 100 suicide attempts. About 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and nearly 7 percent have attempted it.

Every year there are high-profile suicides of young people who had been bullied in the past.

Kitty McGuire, a 13-year-old from Troy, took her own life in March. Family members have said the girl was the victim of bullying and that it was a factor in her suicide, although the Waldo County Sheriff's Department has disputed that.

Kristen Veayo never tried suicide. But her cutting got so bad that she had to leave school and spend time in a hospital.

She said the lesson she learned was to find another outlet.

She and her sister have always been interested in music and that became their biggest source of comfort. They perform as a pop-rock duo all over New England. Katherine plays piano, keyboards and drums. Kristen plays guitar, writes lyrics and sings. Her stage voice sounds older than 18, and it strips away any signs of her stutter.

The Veayos are good, too. Last year, they beat out 11 other high school bands to win a contest hosted by the Maine Academy of Modern Music. This year, they were nominated for Best in State by the New England Music Awards.

A lot of their song lyrics address their experiences. The older they have gotten, they said, the easier it has become to speak out.

"I used to not want to talk about it," Kristen said. "But if it helps. I don't want other kids going through what I did." 

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

 

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Today's poll: Bullying

Are Maine schools doing enough to fight bullying ?

Yes

No

View Results