A group of approximately 14 people who are parents, school staff, law enforcement and students gathered at the Tuesday and began talking about how to raise the issue and how to prevent bullying in Ledyard schools, on the busses and online.
“It breaks my heart to see kids hurting and I think that kids can be very cruel,” said Melissa Thaxton, a parent who started the group. “They don’t realize what other kids are going through.”
Thaxton has a son in seventh grade and said she knows kids get bullied for all types of reasons.
“If they’re not tiny, short and cute, they’re made fun of,” she said of girls. “If they’re not good in sports kids will be made fun of, it’s just everything. Kids can’t be themselves.”
The group is named 15 Seconds, and it has a motto: “It takes 15 seconds to make someone’s day, or it takes 15 seconds to say that’s not OK.”
Co-coordinator Karen Ferrie said that bullying has been tolerated and dismissed for too long.
“It’s unacceptable in regular society, it absolutely should not be ok in schools,” she said.
Thaxton said she grew up in Ohio and the February school shooting really hit close to her heart. Ferrie saw it as a good reason to take a stand now.
“If we think that this couldn’t happen in Ledyard…we don’t want to wait until something happens at our school,” she said. “We want 15 Seconds to be proactive.”
Thaxton said that most kids will say they were just kidding or they didn’t mean it when their actions are called into question.
Alexis Polinsky, a seventh-grader at agreed.
“People think if they write ‘LOL’ after, it makes everything ok but it’s not,” she said of cyber-bullying.
Thaxton said she wants 15 Seconds to become a massive movement and though her vision is large, her goals are simple.
“Just to raise awareness to help cut down on bullying,” she said of her mission. “Even having parents talk to their kids more, they just need to know that their words hurt.”
Megan Brawner, an eighth-grader at Ledyard Middle School said that bullying is a problem at school and that there would be less of it “if kids actually had guts and stood up for each other.”
Parents at the meeting realize that as kids turn into teenagers, they have to take a proactive role in teaching their kids how to be good citizens – even if it’s not easy.
Julie Lambert Lemelin, who has one child in middle school and another in high school, said that the school resources are stretched too thin and that parents should fill in where the schools are lacking.
“They can’t do any more, she said of the schools and town. “People really need to step up and say ‘I can do something.’”
As the volunteers and coordinators packed up the leftover cookies and stacked the chairs, they were pleased with the turn out and invigorated by the ideas that came out of the meeting.
“I think it’s going to make a big difference,” said Kathy Kane, a volunteer with grandchildren in Ledyard schools. “Hopefully we save at least one kid.”
15 Seconds meets again on May 3, at the Ledyard Middle School at 6 p.m.