LAUREL — Addressing a growing problem within the Laurel School District: bullying.
Back in December, MTN News brought you a story of Laurel parents pulling their children from the schools with claims of ‘out of control’ bullying. This week, the school district brought in a special guest to combat the issue.
“Right now, we’re just really trying to work together as a team and give our kids a toolbox to work with," said Zada Stamper, the community education coordinator for Laurel Public Schools, on Thursday. "And that’s what we started with today, we started a toolbox. We’ve given them the box and maybe a screwdriver or two."
The school district decided to bring in extra help to support its students.
“I think we’re empowering them and that’s what I want to see," Stamper said. "I want them to be empowered today."
Stamper spent months researching who to bring in.
"I did a lot of studying behind this to find out who would best fit our need for our community," said Stamper. "Our community really needs this. That’s the resilience for them and it’s something that, as a parent, I wished I had this to be able to share with my kids. And I didn’t.”
Stamper landed on Jeff Veley, who knows firsthand what it’s like to be bullied.
"I really got picked on a lot in school and had some hard times at home, so I wanted to help kids like me,” Veley said on Thursday. "I think my hope is, when I look out into the audience, I try to think of myself sitting in that seat. I just hope to be that adult for one of these kids that maybe really needs some help and some hope."
Veley spent the day Thursday traveling between the elementary, middle, and high schools working with all of the students.
“I love to teach them what aggression is. A lot of people don’t realize, there’s sort of a science to its game. It’s a game of winning and losing," Veley said. "Typically, someone will say something to make you upset. If you get upset, then you lose, they win. But if we teach kids, ‘Hey, what if you didn’t get upset? What if that didn’t have to bother you?’ So really trying to give them tips of how to do that, and understanding how to turn enemies into friends."
Thursday night, the lesson continued in the high school’s auditorium and parents were invited to join.
“I’m really thankful for the partnership with Laurel here and that they’re really investing in teaching kids how to solve their own social problems," Veley said. "I think so often we can try to change the world around a kid. But to really empower them directly, as a kid who was picked on for years, it just means a lot for adults to invest in."
The school district said that while the problem is being addressed, solving the issue requires a group effort.
“It’s not a one-and-done thing. It’s something the school district is going to have to continue to work on," Stamper said. "But we can’t do it alone. We have to have our parents and our families buy into it as well. So I mean, we’re excited tonight, not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t know if it’s going to be completely full or completely empty tonight, I have no idea. But we’re at least trying."
"I wish there would be more people here tonight so they would learn. I really do, because it’s unfair. It’s not right,” Ashley Young, a parent in attendance, said on Thursday. “These guys are our future. If we don’t teach them, who will?”
To learn more about Jeff Veley, click here.
To read MTN's original report on the matter, click here.