PUEBLO — Bullying and harassment can have deadly consequences, which is one of the reasons why School District 60 in Pueblo is working hard to combat that culture. The hard work from the schools was showcased at their annual Community Peace Summit, while hoping to spread a message of kindness.
The summit is especially timely, following new research from the Centers for Disease Control that shows suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans 10 to 24 years old.
Felicity Pacheco, an eighth grade student at Pueblo Academy of Arts, said it's no secret bullying can have extreme consequences. "I get bullied a lot for the way I choose to express myself... Many students are like, suicidal and depressed because of how other students talk to them and how other students behave toward them," said Pacheco.
Pacheco also said she has experienced depression, and believes the conversation about bullying is an important one to start. "With teen suicide on the rise, it's really important that schools talk about this and try to bring awareness to bullying, and depression, and suicidal thoughts," said Pacheco.
Those with School District 60 in Pueblo, which encompasses 29 schools, said they currently have two different grants providing funding to combat bullying. Director of Communications for the school district, Dalton Sprouse, said the two grants are called Sources of Strength and No Bully. "We've received some grants specifically to combat bullying in our schools, and so we take those grants very seriously... we all play a role in preventing bullying," said Sprouse. Sprouse said both grants will last for three years, and they plan to try and renew them after that. He said the Sources of Strength grant was for $75,000 over three years, and the No Bully for this three year period is around $600,000. The district previously had a No Bully grant for three years that totaled to $2.1 million.
Frederick Davis is a first grade teacher at Haaff Elementary School, who said he has been working in education for 27 years. Davis said bullying looks different for certain age groups, but now teachers and administrators at his school have a plan to deal with it. "Especially when I first started teaching in the 90's, we dealt with it, but I think a lot of it was ignored... [Now they have a] committee of teachers and students that will work with them, and make sure they feel that they belong," said Davis.
For Pacheco, the emphasis on ending bullying has given her a better understanding of the complex situation. "Even when people are bullies, they might have something going on at home or with them, and so I think it's really important to see the good in everybody," said Pacheco. Still, she said it's important to speak up if you are being bullied, or if you see it happening.
School District 60 also said with any bullying incident, due to student confidentiality laws, the district will not disclose specific information. However, they do say they investigate every incident. If a parent is concerned about something happening at school, they said to make sure the lines of communication are open between parent and child. A tip Davis suggested is asking specific questions about a child's day.