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Ben Rodgers, Forum Communications Co., Published November 12 2010

Parents join forces on Facebook to combat bullying

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Parents across the state are joining forces using the same social media networks often used against their children to combat the issue of bullying in schools.

Groups and profiles started on Facebook include Parents Against Bullies!! and Connor’s Law. Both are set up with the intent of spreading awareness to stop bullying and push a bill through the Legislature, respectively.

The parents who created the groups and anyone else interested are welcome to attend a meeting that is planned in Valley City at 6:30 tonight at the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Main Street.

“I don’t think parents are aware of what their kids are doing, and I want these kids to know there are alternatives to taking their lives,” said Cassie Earles, founder of Parents Against Bullies!!

Topics to be discussed at the meeting include children’s rights, community involvement and letting children know there are places to go and people to talk to if they are being bullied. The proposed bill for Connor’s Law will also be discussed.

Connor’s Law is an effort co-founded by Christine Heinze after her 13-year-old autistic son endured bullying so extreme he attempted suicide.

Heinze said rumors have been started at his Fargo middle school. He has been assaulted and even pushed in front of an oncoming bus.

Connor’s Law would create laws against bullying in schools. An attachment would make it a hate crime to bully a special-needs student.

Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, is working on a bill he wants to pass in this next Legislature session.

Heinze said she has no idea what the consequences could be on the bill but suggested it should be detention, followed by suspension, followed by expulsion.

“The teachers need to actually listen to these kids. It can be nipped in the bud,” Heinze said.

There will also be another meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 19 at 1201 13th Ave. N. in Fargo to discuss bullying.

North Dakota is currently one of five states in the country without a law on bullying.

Similar concerns have been brought before the Jamestown School Board. It recently agreed to form a committee to start work on a districtwide policy on bullying.

A meeting for concerned parties is planned sometime after Thanksgiving in Jamestown.

More events are planned in Valley City in the near future.

Earles said people can wear blue on Monday.

“The blue is in memory of Cassidy Andel,” she said.

From 6 to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, there will be a line of candles in Valley City on the corner of Ninth Avenue West and Main Street to bring awareness to bullying.

“If you can’t attend, we’re asking you to put on a porch light or put a candle in the window,” Earles said.

She said schools are aware of the problem and they should talk to the student and the parents.

“No parent should have to put their kid in the ground because people are bullying them,” Earles said.

Ben Rodgers is a writer for The Jamestown Sun