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Educators Attend Anti-Bullying Conference

By Trevor Kapp | May 10, 2012 6:44pm
Lee Hirsch, the director of
Lee Hirsch, the director of "Bully," spoke in front of about 200 teachers, principals and administrators Thursday morning.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Luz Minaya said she did not witness many bullying incidents in her first nine years as a Spanish and technology teacher at I.S. 528 in Washington Heights.

This year, though, she has seen students get taunted and pushed around because of race, sex and even disabilities.

"I wanted to learn how to mitigate these issues and teach the kids conflict resolution," said Minaya, who added that she was unsure of the cause of the sudden increase in aggressive behavior.

Minaya joined about 200 other teachers, principals and administrators at the United Federation of Teacher’s anti-bullying conference Thursday morning in lower Manhattan.

Guests listened to a presentation from keynote speaker Lee Hirsch, the director of the film "Bully."

"We are literally at a tipping-point moment across the country when it comes to bullying," Hirsch said.

"When we talk about bullying, we have to talk about ourselves and talk about our kids because it’s very difficult for our kids to stand up."

The participants watched clips from the film and later separated into groups that focused on resolution strategies for different types of torment.

Kierra Foster-Ba, an assistant principal at a Manhattan high school, said she attended the conference after a recent episode at her school.

"People have a tendency to try to blame the victim," she said. "And the victims themselves can collude with the bullies. I wanted to learn some tools to prevent this."

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that while he's confident bullying can be suppressed, it is going to require faculty, students and even politicians to be more cognizant of its existence.

"We know it comes down to the culture of the school and setting that tone correctly," Mulgrew said. "It means getting one parent, two parents, local elected officials to start buying in and saying, 'We need to change our culture.'"

Hirsch said that whether it is in rural Iowa, where he filmed much of "Bully," or the classrooms of the South Bronx, the same message applies.

"It starts with one," he said. "We each need to reach out and find a way to find a solution to this."