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Summit aims to halt bullying

Bullying has become a part of life, but it doesn't have to be.

One of the messages of Buffalo's first summit on anti-bullying is that bullying is "something that can be stopped," said Crystal J. Rodriguez-Lane, executive director of Buffalo's Commission on Citizens Rights and Community Relations.

Two hundred Buffalo city school students and about 100 educators and other interested adults attended the anti-bullying awareness summit Friday at D'Youville College sponsored by Mayor Byron W. Brown, the Commission on Citizens Rights and Community Relations and the FBI's Community Outreach Program.

"Hopefully they'll bring back to their schools an attitude that's contagious, and it will spread throughout the school," Rodriguez-Lane said.

"We're going to try get our school to be a better school," said Kamryn Spears, a junior at Riverside Institute of Technology.

Aaliyah Kearney, a sophomore at Tapestry Charter School, said parents have a role to play, as well.

"Parents need to be more active in their kids' lives," she said, adding that by paying more attention, parents will be able to "really see" how their children are doing.

The mayor told students that the effects of bullying can be seen in poor attendance, poor grades and poor graduation rates.

"What we want to see in Buffalo is a safe educational environment for everyone, where every student of every age in every school can go to school and feel happy and learn and not have to worry about bullies," Brown said.

Students and adults attended workshops on bullying, cyberbullying and their effects.

The New York Civil Liberties Union also presented a session on the "Dignity for All Students Act" signed into law last year by Gov. David A. Paterson. It prohibits harassment of and discrimination against students based on their actual or perceived "race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex."

The mayor also announced an anti-bullying and violence poster contest open to all Buffalo students. The winning poster will serve as the official anti-bullying message for the City of Buffalo, and it will appear at Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bus shelters and on Lamar Advertising billboards in the city.

Antonio Mills, a junior at Tapestry Charter School, said he's glad the event was held.

"There's a lot of kids who don't really see how serious bullying is," he said. "I'm going to take what I learned from here and take it to other people so they can understand how things really are."

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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