VALPARAISO | In the battle against bullies, a growing number of people are getting involved, ranging from the U.S. Army to a Valparaiso middle school student.
Both were present at Monday's City Council meeting to talk about the problem of bullies in the schools and what is being about it.
U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Joseph McClelland and Ryan Shockey talked about the program they take into the schools to talk about bullies and how to stop them.
Annika Kuehl, a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, said she's been a victim of bullies, much of it through the social media, and she started her own program after getting resistance from the school about discussing the problem in the classrooms.
McClelland, who did two tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, said he was approached after returning home by a woman who recognized him and said he was mean to her in middle school. McClelland said he thought of himself as a joker and not a bully or mean.
The program he and Shockey bring to classes defines the different types of bullying while telling students what to do about it. Shockey said sometimes bullies don't realize they are bullying, and they don't get it until they are told to imagine similar types of actions against a younger brother or sister and how it would make them feel.
Their program teaches Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage to not only not be a bully but to report bullying when they see it. Despite the success of the program, they said they have had trouble getting into the Valparaiso schools except in speaking to alternative classes.
Kuehl said she's been subjected to every kind of bullying but has learned to overcome it. She started FFB (Friends Fighting Back) as a play on the BFF (best friends forever) cyber reference because "it shows that friends taking a stand against what isn't right is more important than best friends forever."
She sells FFB bracelets to raise money to support self-harm centers and any school board program started to address bullying. Also speaking up on the need for anti-bullying efforts was Carly Peterson, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who said her daughter committed suicide, mostly as a result of bullying.
The City Council also approved an ordinance requiring protestors at funeral services remain a minimum of 300 feet away for an hour before and an hour after the service. The ordinance is aimed at groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, which has held protests at military funerals and other events.