DA talks bullying with students

Philadelphia’s district attorney went back to school this week to teach a lesson about bullying.

Seth Williams talked to a well-behaved group of Baldi Middle School sixth-graders early Monday afternoon about bullying and its effects on children’s lives. He didn’t lecture the pupils. Instead, he led the discussion, letting the kids do a lot of the talking.

Pupil Channing Jackson had written a letter to the DA about bullying that he asked her to read Monday to kids and teachers gathered in Baldi’s library.

Bullying is not healthy, she said. “It can hurt people’s feelings and make them feel bad about themselves.”

Part of Channing’s letter now is used in anti-bullying material the DA’s office hands out.

Using a question-and-answer format, the DA got the kids talking about the forms bullying takes.

“Hitting!” one pupil said.

“Pushing someone’s books out of their hands,” said another.

“Telling people not to be friends with someone.”

“Fighting!”

And that’s not to mention the “cyber bullying” of spreading stories about others online, the DA said.

“Why do people bully?” Williams asked the kids. They want to feel power, he said.

“They want to feel bigger by making other people feel smaller,” one pupil said. “Bullies don’t feel good about themselves,” said another.

Williams encouraged kids to speak up if they are bullied or witness others being victimized.

“Report it,” he said. Pupils should tell a teacher, tell an adult, or tell a parent, he said.

But kids have the real power to stop bullying, he said. And the well-liked kids who have the respect and admiration of their classmates have the most power, he added. They can use that power for good, he said. They can tell people to stop.

Williams also asked the kids, all of whom wrote essays about bullying, to take an anti-bullying pledge. He also swore them in as honorary assistant district attorneys.

The DA, who likes to encourage kids to stay in school and get their high school diplomas, didn’t miss an opportunity to do that Monday.

There’s one thing almost every one of the thousands of people his office prosecutes yearly have in common, he told the kids.

“They didn’t finish high school … and a lot of them wind up breaking the law.” ••