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Students learn how to deal with bullies

WORTHINGTON -- Who knew "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" could be a metaphor for bullying?

Naturalist storyteller Kevin Strauss used that and other stories to teach students at Worthington Middle School ways to deal with bullies -- or trolls, in the case of the goats.

"Dealing with bullies is a team sport," he told them, describing the three ways students can be heroes for victims of bullying. Telling the bully to "Stop that right now" works 50 percent of the time, he said, and standing by the target of the bullying to show support can be effective.

Strauss also said when it comes to bullying, being a "tattletale" is OK -- yet 70 percent of middle school girls and 80 to 90 percent of middle school boys don't report bullying when they see it.

He spun another story, describing an "International Bullying Convention" in which the world's bullies decided they would invent the word "tattletale" to keep people from reporting on their troublemaking.

"It's very important to describe the behavior you see," he said. "Until you report bullying behavior, it won't stop."

He also gave techniques students could use if they became targets of bullying.

"Every second you stand in front of a bully, the bully wins," he said. Using WMS Principal Clete Lipetzky as the "bully," Strauss showed students how to turn sideways and walk away. He also showed students how to shrug off mean comments with a disinterested "maybe."

"The first thing a bully wants to do is make (people) defend themselves," he said. By using the word "maybe," students neither agree nor disagree with the nasty comments and can avoid getting drawn in to an argument with the bully.

Strauss' first tactic, however, was to take a deep breath and smile.

"It confuses the bully, and they have to change tactics," he said, "(Smiling also) protects your brain from any kind of stressful situation."

After the presentation Wednesday, Strauss said he likes to focus on giving students specific techniques and having them role play situations, because it better prepares them to deal with actual bullying.

"You can see in the back of their brains they're going, 'Oh, this (technique) would work here,'" he said.

Eighth-grader Alex Flores said he often sees bullying of students based on the clothes they're wearing or their size.

"I learned to stick up for kids that are getting picked on," he said.

Strauss said the number of reported bullying behaviors often increases after his presentation, and Lipetzky hopes that holds true.

"It's not going hurt them to think about their behavior," he said. "I hope that the reports would increase and the behavior would drop."