LINCOLN – It was rather by accident how Lincoln Prevention Coalition Coordinator Pam Shayer discovered John Mattson, a Providence-based consultant who has served as a trainer, curriculum developer and evaluation advisor for numerous U.S. groups, including the National Crime Prevention Council, Center for Civic Education and Youth Crime Watch of America.
She doesn't care.
Shayer claimed being mighty impressed after reading his resume, and was ecstatic to invite him to speak at a “Who Bullies?” presentation, slated for Tuesday, March 8, at Amica Mutual Insurance Co.'s Building 100 auditorium.
The assembly, sponsored by the Lincoln and North Smithfield prevention coalitions, will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. It's free and open to the public, most notably parents and children.
“He covers bullying from every single angle,” Shayer stated. “He'll address the types of bullying, the scope of the bullying problem, warning signs, strategies that kids can use to deal with it, steps parents and other adults can take to address the problem and how to recognize and cope with cyber-bullying.
“The strategies kids can use, that's something new for me,” she added. “Usually, we educate the parents, guardians and teachers about the signs to look for, but this is designed to help both adults and children.
“This will show them how to identify bullying behavior, and – ultimately, I hope – open the doors of communication between parents and children. I believe that's critical to the healthy development of all children. I know John will talk about how schools can be active in bullying prevention.
“My goal for this program is the same for anything I run: To educate and inform as many people as possible, and to continue to raise awareness about issues that most affect our kids nowadays. If parents are informed on those issues, then they can more adequately meet his or her needs and concerns.”
The statistics are quite staggering, according to www.how-to-stop-bullying.com .
They reveal 77 percent of students are bullied mentally, verbally and physically; 15 percent of U.S. high school students have reported one to three bullying incidents in the last month and 3.4 percent 10 times or more; and 23 percent of elementary school-aged children have indicated they were bullied one to three times in the past month.
In addition, 30 percent of U.S. students in grades 6-10 had been involved in moderate to frequent episodes – as bullies, victims or both; one out of every four kids are bullied; one out of five admit to being aggressors; 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of being bullied; 43 percent fear being harassed inside a school lavatory; and, according to school and cyber-bullying numbers, 282,000 secondary education students are physically attacked each month.
And how's this for disturbing? Every seven minutes, a child is bullied on his or her own school playground. Adults intervened four percent of the time and peers 11 percent, but there was no intervention whatsoever a startling 85 percent.
“The thing about bullying is you don't want to wait until there's a problem in the community to address it,” noted Shayer, who also acts as the North Smithfield Prevention Coalition's Co-Director. “Part of my role in prevention is to address any type of behavior that may lead to negative activity or risky, improper behavior.”
Shayer explained she had attended a monthly R.I. Substance Abuse Prevention Act meeting about two years ago at Buttonwoods in Warwick, and a colleague asked her if she had heard of Mattson.
The woman mentioned she had met him through the R.I. Third Eye Project, which focuses on empowering young people to become leaders and work together against bullying, crime, substance abuse and gangs in their schools and communities.
“She told me he was fabulous in getting the message across, and she gave me his contact information,” she continued. “I called him and asked if he still does presentations, and he told me did, then sent me his resume.
“You know, he's actually done more presentations in other countries than he has here in the states; at least it seemed that way. I've already heard from some school administrators who wanted to know more about the program, and a few parents have called saying they can't wait, and 'I'm going to be there!' In fact, there was one who asked, 'Can I bring my nine-year-old?' I just said, 'Of course!'
“Lincoln has done tremendous work at addressing this issue with parents and students, as we've had programs such as 'Rachel's Challenge' (about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre), 'RESPECT' and even my S.A.D.D. Group at Lincoln High.
“Honestly, bullying happens everywhere, not just in schools, not just with students but also the workplace and at home. If someone doesn't recognize that, they're being unrealistic. I've talked to John quite a few times, and I made it clear I don't want it to be a Lincoln-only or North Smithfield-only event. That's why we're holding it at Amica.”
Actually, Mattson has received numerous awards for such presentations, and creating groups to aid in halting such issues.
They include the “1998 State Leader of the Year” by the National Crime Prevention Council and Youth Crime Watch of America; “2003 International Youth Service Award” by those same two organizations; “New Expansion Center of the Year” by the Youth Crime Watch of America in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08; “2006 Excellence in Mentoring Award” by the R.I. Mentoring Partnership & State of Rhode Island; and “2006 State Charter School Supporter Award” by the R.I. League of Charter Schools.
“I'm really excited about this because John is so well-known and so well-received by his audiences,” Shayer offered. “Like I said, I saw his resume and thought, 'Oh, my God! He's done presentations in Germany, and extensive work with the National Crime Prevention Council. He's talked all over the country.
“Another part of my job is to do research, look for dynamic speakers, and I've definitely found one,” she added. “He'll address bullying and cyber-bullying here, but I've also had people speak about under-aged drinking, Internet safety, nutrition, drug abuse, smoking cessation, etc.
“I'm really looking forward to this. I wanted to have a bullying presentation because it's been a while since we had one, and I believe we need to revisit this topic. This is something that hasn't gone away. With all the advances in technology, it's extremely important for parents, teachers and kids themselves to be educated.”
For more information, call Shayer at (401) 333-8426.