HAZLE TWP. – With a new school year just weeks away in most local districts, many children are already preparing for everything the new year brings – fresh faces, different classes and new tasks ahead.
But for some, the unpleasant truth is they will also face an old problem, one that affects more than 160,000 kids every school day – bullying.
However, the Health and Wellness Center in Hazle Township was prepared for the same problem Tuesday night as the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance hosted its first forum on the subject with a presentation designed to welcome children and their parents for an evening full of helpful tips and sound advice.
"What You Need to Know about Bullying" began with key speaker Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea, who not only spoke to the mixed crowd of parents and children as a law enforcer, but also from personal experience as the father of a bullied child.
"It's because of bullying that my daughter used to prefer the company of adults to children," the chief said. "She'd say ‘I've outgrown my friends. I'm more mature,' and I'd think, ‘Yeah, she is a very mature young lady.' "
He said that his daughter wasn't trying to be anti-social, she simply felt more comfortable around people she thought wouldn't bully her the way she had been from someone her own age.
The evening's other speaker, Dr. James Caggiano, a pediatrician with the GHHA's Alliance Medical Group, the type of behavior exhibited by DeAndrea's daughter is something he has seen in his own practice.
"Kids come in with headaches or bellyaches or they're always in the nurse's office at school. A sizable number when you ask them the right questions are linked to bullying," Caggiano said.
An informational packet provided on the subject stated the warning signs that a child is being bullied can range from change in eating habits to coming home with damaged clothing or unexplained injuries. But what can be done to prevent or stop it? Caggiano offered insight.
"We need to bully-proof these kids and get them to understand the dynamics of the bully – know what goes on inside their heads. But we also want to let them know it's good to talk to adults, and we want them to know that bullying won't be tolerated."