One student took a different approach to meet his fellow teens.

He asked if he could sit with them for lunch.

To be clear, Boca Raton Community High School in Florida has a much bigger student population of roughly 3,400 pupils. That compares to 330 at the Reedsport Community Charter School. The school has about 100 seventh- and eighth-graders and 180 ninth- through 12th-graders.

Another roughly 50 teens study through the Reedsport Educational Alternative Program (REAP). This is under the parent umbrella of Alternative Youth Activities. This is a private non-profit organization stretching from Brookings to Reedsport with all sites focusing on at-risk youth, teen parents, and other youth who need special help to complete their schooling, according to the Reedsport School District website.

There's another roughly 50 students through the Alternative Youth Authority REEP who take alternative courses.

The program in Boca Rota? "We Dine Together." The idea seems to go way beyond anti-bullying. Its concept focuses on students getting to know each other better, regardless of their socio-economic, racial, gender, or other background. Florida Sun Sentinel staff writer Caitlin R. McGlade covered the news earlier this year.

"They call it 'We Dine Together' and it's built on the idea that all good relationships start around a table," she wrote. "They gather on Tuesdays to eat pizza, share poetry, talk politics, play games and plan community service hours," the reporter wrote. "More than 60 students have joined since the beginning of the school year. Some used to eat alone with no one to call a friend. Others were outgoing and wanted to join the mission. When they're not meeting, they're out in the school's busy courtyard searching for students who are by themselves."

"'No kid should eat alone,'" said Denis Estimon, one of the club's leaders. "'There are so many problems in this world and the only thing that can solve it is  relationships."

The campaign at Boca Raton gained national media attention, with at least a two-part CBS report on progress made thus far.

Anti-bullying tips

The Reedsport School District has several methods in place to help students, families and staff fight bullying -- regardless of the form the bullying may take. The district provides a school resource officer, Matt Smart, who rotates his time between Highland Elementary and Reedsport Community Charter School. Plus each school and the district have policies delineating student policy and the consequences of certain behavior. One can access these at the district website, which is http://www.reedsport.k12.or.us/.

Issues of bullying are by no means unique to Reedsport.

According to the website Scholastic.com and an "Bullying and Teasing: No Laughing Matter," here's what the author had to say.

"Unfortunately, teasing is often part of growing up — almost every child experiences it," the author wrote. "But it isn't always as innocuous as it seems. Words can cause pain. Teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive or when there is a conscious intent to hurt another child."

"It can be verbal bullying (making threats, name-calling), psychological bullying, spreading rumors), or physical bullying (hitting, pushing, taking a child's possessions)."

Bullying isn't limited to one economic class.

"Bullying behavior is prevalent throughout the world and it cuts across socio-economic, racial/ethnic and cultural lines," according to "Bullying and Teasing: No Laughing Matter."

Additionally bullying victims tend to be shy and physically weaker than their peers. According to the Scholastic.com link, they "may also have low self-esteem and poor social skills, which makes it hard for them to stand up for themselves. Bullies consider these children safe targets because they usually don't retaliate."

Then there's the effects.

A child who's bothered may suffer not only physically but emotionally and in turn his grades show it.

"Grades drop because, instead of listening to the teacher, kids are wondering what they did wrong and whether anyone will sit with them at lunch," the author noted.

The problem cycles into an abyss.

"If bullying persists, they may be afraid to go to school," the author wrote. "Problems with low self-esteem and depression can last into adulthood and interfere with personal and professional lives."

In adulthood, individuals who were bullied are more likely to abuse alchohol and "to be abusive spouses. Some studies have even found a correlation with later criminal activities."

Watch out for these warning signs

  • Increased passivity or withdrawal;
  • Frequent crying;
  • Recurrent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches "with no apparent cause";
  • Unexplained bruises;
  • A rapid drop in grades;
  • Not wanting to go to school;
  • Major changes in the child's social life. For example no one's calling or extending an invitation to the youth;
  • Quick changes in the way your child talks — calling himself a loser or a former friend a jerk.

The Umpqua Post Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or shelby.case@theworldlink.com.

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Umpqua Post Editor