Valpo City Council hears discussion on bullying
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 13, 2013 11:08PM
VALPARAISO — Bullying — or preventing it — took center stage at Monday’s Valparaiso City Council meeting, as representatives from the U.S. Army and a seventh grader talked about their efforts to stop bullying.
Sgt. Joseph McClelland and Sgt. Ryan Shockey, representatives of the local Army recruiting office, offer a prevention program at local high schools. They present a video and have students write letters to a bully, to someone they bullied and to someone else they saw being pushed around.
They shared some of those letters, including one from a student who was bullied daily and attempted suicide. “Bullying is not an OK thing,” the student wrote.
“Each kid has the same right,” Shockey said. “They all have the right to go to class without fear.”
The presentation struck a chord with Annika Kuehl, 13, a seventh-grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Kuehl, who has been bullied both over the Internet and in person, announced she has started her own anti-bullying effort, Friends Fighting Back, a play on BFF, or “Best Friends Forever.”
“I want the people who think they’re alone to know they’re not alone,” she said.
Kuehl is selling bracelets to raise money for Friends Fighting Back. More information about her work is available on Facebook and Instagram.
The presentation also touched Carly Petersen of Valparaiso, whose daughter Kelsey committed suicide at age 15 in 2008.
Bullying was one of the things that led to Kelsey’s suicide, said Petersen, who organizes walks and other events for suicide awareness and prevention.
In other business:
The council unanimously passed on second reading an ordinance banning funeral protests. Under the ordinance, spearheaded by Councilman Joey Larr, protests are restricted within 300 feet of any residence, cemetery, funeral home, house of worship or other establishment within and hour before or after a funeral or similar service.
Porter County officials and those in other local municipalities have put similar ordinances in place.
*The City Council is gearing up to conduct a round of interviews to fill a four-year term on the Valparaiso School Board.
The council is accepting applications through May 31, said Councilman Michael Baird. The council will meet in executive session on June 3 to select up to five individuals for interviews.
Council members will interview the candidates during public meetings on June 10 and June 24.
The city council selects four of the school board’s members, and the Center Township Board selects the fifth member. The Center Township position is being filled this year as well.
*Council President Jan Dick, sitting in for Mayor Jon Costas, who was not at the meeting, began the evening with a moment of silence for former Mayor Bryce Billings, who died May 6.
Billings served as the city’s mayor from 1968 to 1972, and served as a Superior Court judge from 1976 until he retired in 1988.