UW-L students, faculty join anti-bullying campaign
UW-La Crosse students, faculty and a local hospital are collaborating to bring area families more resources to stop bullying.
“We have to get at this issue before it even starts,” says Jeff Reiland, adjunct faculty member in UW-L’s Psychology Department and Physician Assistant Program. “How to be kind and have empathy starts at home and that’s why we’re targeting families.”
Gundersen Lutheran received a $62,000 grant from Kohl’s Cares to provide resources to help area parents and families address bullying. Reiland, a child and family therapist at Gundersen, worked with undergraduate UW-L students — Karli Dahl, Caitlin Cullen and Corina Colon — to create website content to address bullying. Another part of the grant involves giving presentations on bullying to parents in a 19-county region. The website was launched in early February with the help of UW-L faculty and students.Two psychology department faculty members are also featured on the website — Rob Dixon, who started a Watch D.O.G.S (Dads of Great Students) group that provides mentoring to students at Onalaska’s Eagle Bluff Elementary and Tesia Marshik whose videos help parents understand how to promote empathy and kindness with their children.
UW-L’s student group Awareness through Performance, is helping create videos on bullying for the website. The group has a familiarity with the issue through their campus and community performances about social justice issues. ATP students wrote the skits, performed and shot them.
“The hope is that the videos will aid parents in sitting down with their children to have an active dialogue about bullying,” says Matt Evensen, program coordinator for Campus Climate.
Campus Climate assesses the living and learning environment on campus and helps remove barriers to inclusion. Bullying is a barrier to inclusion and fits in with that mission — especially when the bullying stems from differences such as class or sexual orientation, says Evensen.
“We are serving the community on campus, but we also have an obligation to help the La Crosse community, Wisconsin and beyond,” says Evensen. “If it means 10 less kids are bullied, and have resources to work through bullying, then we are doing a service to those people.”
College students involved in the project provide “a lot of energy, passion and creativity,” and their age puts them closer to the subject matter, says Reiland.
“I think a lot of children and teenagers really look up to young adults,” he explains. “Part of the next phase of website will be adults — people 18 years and older — telling their story of being bullied and how they overcame the experience.”
The anti-bullying campaign is not the first time ATP has shared their talents with an external group. They also give performances and lead panel discussions at area high schools on social justice issues such as sexual assault, racism, sexism, classism and more. In March they’ll work with UW-L’s Continuing Education and Extension on a professional development conference. They’ve also collaborated on other community events such as La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Summit and the La Crosse County Domestic Violence Task Force.
Gundersen Lutheran will be applying for a second phase of the grant, which would address more specific bullying concerns such as girls and bullying, bullies, and bullies targeting the LGBTIQQAA community. Reiland is hopeful that ATP will also be involved in video production during this phase.
The following UW-L students participated in researching, writing and producing the skits:
Visit the Together Against Bullying website
Bullying in college too?
College students experience bullying too. It just takes on a different form, says Angela Birrittella, graduate assistant in UW-L’s Campus Climate office. Hate and bias incident reports submitted to the office are examples of the bullying that can happen on campus. A total of 38 incidents of hate or bias have been reported so far this school year.