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Dunedin student organizes anti-bullying conference

DUNEDIN — Joe Nash had had enough, so he got busy organizing and planning.

The result? The first "Stop the Hate, Before It's Too Late — Dunedin's Students Against Bullying Conference," which took place Friday in Dunedin High School's auditorium.

"I decided after my own experiences with being bullied in middle school that I had to do something to help other people who might be in the position I was," said Nash, a 17-year-old junior who came up with the conference idea and put the program together.

Fifty students, leaders from different school clubs, programs and groups were chosen to take part in a conference that included videos, talks from a Pinellas County deputy on cyber bullying and information from school guidance counselors on what to do if a student sees someone being bullied or was bullied themselves.

There was even a celebrity guest.

Jeffrey Brozovich, a 1989 Dunedin graduate, a stunt man and Disney performer since 1993, talked about his own encounters with being bullied.

"For almost three years, I walked like this," Brozovich said, as he limped across the stage.

The years of stunts had taken a toll on his hip and Brozovich, now 39, was taking guff.

"I'd walk in the green room and guys would call me a gimp," he said. "I'm a stunt man, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and someone half my size was giving me crap about the way I walked. It was a joke at first, but then it happened every time I walked in."

Brozovich told students he simply took the bully aside. He didn't threaten the man or get upset but spoke with him, one-on-one. As soon as he did, he said, the person apologized, saying he didn't realize it got to Brozovich. That was the end of the problem, and he ultimately had hip replacement surgery.

• • •

Students in the audience got the message.

"In the past, this school has had negative attention," said Lindsey Gow, 17, of Dunedin. "It's nice to have a positive spotlight on our school and for Dunedin High School to set this example for the county."

When Deputy Jim Miller, the school resource officer at Dunedin, stepped on stage, he talked about statistics. He defined cyber bullying and had students raise their hands if they'd ever had something derogatory written about them on Facebook, in a text or an e-mail.

About 60 percent of the students raised their hands.

He also talked about sexting, warning students to hit the delete button if they received a sexting photo.

Then, he got personal.

At his 20th high school reunion, a man said he'd waited two decades to thank Miller for stopping a group of bullies.

Miller's friends were trying to stuff the then-teenager in a wall locker at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg. Miller walked up and told his friends to stop. They did.

Miller said he didn't even remember the incident, but the man who had waited 20 years to thank him certainly did.

• • •

Nash hopes this is the start of something big.

He plans to have another "Stop the Hate Before It's Too Late" conference and invite about 75 other students in February.

Friday's conference was video-taped because Nash wants his school to be the starting point for a countywide program that helps students put an end to bullying. He plans to show the video to the Pinellas County School Board sometime in the future.

"This was Joe's brainchild," said principal Reuben C. Hepburn. "Because of his experience in middle school, Joe has a personal crusade to prevent that experience from happening to anyone else."

He went on to say he was impressed by how the students "actively participated, were willing to learn and share what they learn with others. This is a personal campaign of Dunedin High School."

Dunedin student organizes anti-bullying conference 11/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:49pm]
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