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FD?youths stand up to bullying

Fifth- and sixth-graders protest in chilly temperatures

October 6, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, , Messenger News


It's a new word to describe bullying that leads to suicide. The concept is so outrageous Fort Dodge citizens faced chilling winds and 35-degree weather Saturday to protest all forms of bullying.

A youth empowerment rally, sponsored by It Gets Better Fort Dodge, took the corner of First Avenue South and 29th Street at Crossroads Mall with signs and shouted chants of "Stop the hate." and "Be a buddy, not a bully."

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
From left, Andy Johnson, Noelle Johnson and Haddie Fritz, all of Fort Dodge, hold signs at the intersection of 29th Street and First Avenue South for the Youth Empowerment Rally Saturday.

October is anti-bullying month, according to Andy Fritz, It Gets Better vice president, who is also a Fort Dodge City Council member.

"In honor of that, and to raise awareness in the community, we're coming out here to promote the idea, to let people know that bullying is a problem and Fort Dodge is not going to stand for it."

Anti-bullying signs made and held up by Fort Dodge children received enthusiastic honks from passing motorists at the intersection.

"They worked hard to make their own signs," Fritz said. "A little help with cutting and pasting, but other than that it's their ideas and they're happy to be out there dancing around."

The sight, Fritz said, brought him some personal pride.

"We've got fifth- and sixth-graders out there, we've got kids here that are first graders, and they know what it is to be bullied. They've seen the bullying, and they want to stop it as well," he said. "As a parent, it makes me proud."

Bullying is a learned behavior that should be ended, Fritz said, whether it's on the playground or on the Internet. The act has unfortunately even fostered a new term.

"There's a term now, bullycide," he said. "People have been bullied so much, whether it's weight, sexuality, anything, there's people that have killed themselves because they've been bullied so much. We're just drawing attention to that."

He added, "It shouldn't be stood for anymore. Let's eliminate it."

For Jennifer Johnson, It Gets Better president, such an effort starts in the community, with individual awareness.

"If you want a change in a community, you have to become the change," she said. "It's about awareness. Nothing will change unless you bring it to attention, and that's what we're trying to do today."

Among the guest speakers present was Bullying is for Losers founder KC of Los Angeles.

"What people are doing in Fort Dodge is a great movement," she said. "We're going to take it to each community. We want to empower every person to take responsibility and go out in their communities and stop the crisis of bullying, because the end result, as you will hear, is often times suicide."

Ann Gettis, founder of Jeremiah's Hope for Kindness in Minnesota, also spoke Saturday. Gettis truly knows the effect bullying can have.

"My son, he was bullied all through school and took his life in 2006," she said. "I want to try to get people excited and want to not just leave here and go home and do nothing, but get involved, find out what they can do to make things better in the schools and community."

Also speaking, Kayla Weishuhn, 16, of Primghar, whose brother committed suicide at age 14 in April due to bullying.

Silence is acceptance, according to Johnson. Speak loudly.

"They're hear to speak and let people know it's not right, and if we want to change, we're becoming the change," she said.



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