Free anti-bullying forum Tuesday

SARANAC LAKE – A free public forum in Saranac Lake aims to provide community members with proactive tools for recognizing and addressing bullying.

The forum features a panel of regional experts including Petrova School Principal Chad McCarthy as well as Lisa Lawrence and Tracy Gravelle from Citizen Advocates Mental Health, which provides preventive services in the Malone schools.

The forum reflects changing attitudes about bullying nationally and in area schools. Across the nation a series of youth suicides associated with bullying have cast the perennial problem in a new light. In Saranac Lake, a case of bullying in 2010 led to a $6 million lawsuit against the Saranac Lake Central School District The incident resulted in strengthening of existing policies.

Saranac Lake’s current bullying policies bear little resemblance to the approach experienced by previous generations of young people. School staff and parents alike have come to view bullying as a preventable problem when approached with the right combination of education and consequences. The current policies strongly emphasize prevention, and in instances requiring intervention, responses are individually evaluated-gone are the days of blanket punishments.

Schools increasingly recognize the importance of community and peers in addressing harassment. SLCSD policy now reads, “Intervention by adults and bystanders is an important step in preventing escalation and resolving issues at the earliest stages.” Unfortunately, many adults are uncertain how to appropriately assert themselves in instances involving other people’s children. The Saranac Lake forum will address this and other issues specific to community responses to bullying.

The forum is hosted by the Social Justice Committee at Adirondack Unitarian Universalist Community.

The forum will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic Saranac Laboratory, 89 Church St.

Forums typically last about 90 minutes, followed by an informal reception and light refreshments.