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Archive for Monday, August 28, 2006

Officer wins national award for anti-bullying campaign

August 28, 2006

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— A Leawood police officer who has won a national award for anti-bullying programs said he originally was motivated by troubles his own son was having with a bully.

In 1992, Randy Wiler's seventh-grade son was beaten by a bully who had bothered him since preschool. Wiler had the bully arrested but said he realized his son's school had been unaware of the problem.

Two anti-bullying programs Wiler created in response have earned him the title of 2006 International DARE Officer of the Year. He is the first Kansas officer to earn the distinction since the award was established in 1990.

Wiler's programs, which focus on making children, parents and schools aware of bullying and how to stop it, are now used internationally.

Studies indicate that 60 percent of bullies will have at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24. Their targets become anxious, lose sleep, see their grades drop and can have increased thoughts of suicide.

Wiler tested one program last year at Brookwood Elementary School in Leawood, one of four schools where he teaches.

The program Wiler wrote for DARE uses role-playing and word puzzles to teach bystanders that they can and should help stop bullying by reporting it to teachers, supporting someone who is being bullied and possibly standing up to the bully themselves.

"He always told us just to imagine being in their shoes, imagine how you would feel if you were the one being bullied," said Caroline Dodd, 13, a former Brookwood student.

Sixth-grade teacher Mary Billingsly said the program's most effective messages teach students to remove the victim from the situation while letting the bully know they don't like the behavior.

However, children can't stop bullying alone. That's why Wiler's initial efforts focused on teachers and parents, as well as children. He presents that program across the country.

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