Last week a post on social media went viral about a violent incident at Andrew Lewis Middle School. This galvanized families whose children have experienced violence in the schools to connect with each other. They contacted local leaders to ask them for help in stopping violence in our schools. This resulted in a press conference on Thursday, May 25.
Esther Smith said “We would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our community and the surrounding communities that have shown their love, support and prayers for our son. There was an incident that occurred last week that was very troublesome to his father and I. At the present time we can not elaborate to this incident due to an ongoing investigation. Again we thank you for your continued support during this difficult time.”
Lisa Edens has a child who has been bullied in Salem schools said, “I am here to bring a positive light to a dark situation in our school district. I am asking for there to be an open, positive conversation with the Salem School District to improve the treatment and resolutions available that will help victims and the bullies so that we can move forward in a more positive environment that fosters inclusion and empathy in our community.”
Shawn Walton compared her children’s experiences in Roanoke City Schools with schools from other districts where they have lived. She said the violence in the Roanoke City schools her children have experienced would not have been tolerated in the other districts. She cited successful programs in Scandinavian countries that could be implemented here.
Delegate Sam Rasoul spoke about the violent incident between Greg Gianforte and a reporter. He said important leaders are good role models for our children.
Stephen Niamke, Founder and President, Conversation Peace encouraged the community to work together to create a better environment to foster non-violent interactions. He said, “If water freezes at 32 degrees or boils at 212 degrees, don’t blame the water. This is a “normal” reaction for water in those conditions. The focus must be on what has created the environment.”
Colleen Burns, from the Your Life Matters Anti-Bullying Foundation, spoke about the resources available on their website https://yourlifemattersantibullyingfoundation.org/ and encouraged people not to be bystanders to violence.
Steve McBride, candidate for the 8th House of Delegates, spoke about his experiences being bullied in elementary school and later becoming a middle school student conflict mediator. He said, ” I am encouraged our Commonwealth has created a model policy that calls for the use of evidence based prevention methods. I will work to make sure the state’s plan is fully funded and our schools receive the resources they need to keep our children safe. Because, when the state, and local governments work together with the schools and communities then we can create an environment where children are safe and students can focus on learning.”
-Submitted by Freeda Cathcart