By MIKE CHAIKEN
Logan West knows what it’s like to be bullied.
When the current Miss Teen USA was younger, she found herself a target of a bully. But the Southington resident survived the experience.
To ensure other children don’t have to go through what she went through, she created a program, “Bully Proof,” which helps children figure out what bullying is and how they can prevent it.
Logan brought “Bully Proof” to Bristol’s Edgewood School last Tuesday. Besides offering children lessons that they can use to keep from being bullied, Logan’s assembly also allowed several students to open up about their own bullying experiences.
As part of the “Bully Proof” presentation, which Logan has taken to schools across the country as the reigning Miss Teen USA, the 18-year-old Pace University student, leads the children through a variety of exercises to help the youngsters learn about themselves and the ramifications of bullying behavior. For instance, one exercise covered the elements of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Another exercise demonstrated how “mean” comments can lead to permanent emotional scarring.
In another exercise, Logan spoke about how bullies sometimes zero on their targets based on perceived differences. In that exercise, Logan gave a group of students an identical piece of paper. Than she asked them to close their eyes. She subsequently led them through a series identical instructions. And when they were complete with the directions, Logan asked them to open their eyes and hold up their papers. She noted that each of the pieces of paper now looked different even though each child received the same type of paper and the same exact instructions.
“It’s important to accept each other for our differences rather than tear each other down,” said Logan.
Logan also spoke about the types of bullying. She spoke about how bullying can be physical. It can also be verbal. It can be cyberbullying. She additionally addressed the motivations of a bully.
Although she is now a national celebrity as Miss Teen USA, Logan said she was bullied when she was younger. It started when she was in seventh grade. Logan said a classmate began to bully her, criticizing Logan for not “acting her skin color.”
Logan explained she has a black mother and a white father. But Logan said her mother brought her to be Logan and Logan alone. “Take it or leave it.”
However this classmate caused Logan to doubt her own identiy. The bullying began with Logan’s classmate doing small “mean” things to her. Initially, Logan just tried to ignore it. “When she didn’t get a reaction, she got physical,” said Logan. The bully pushed Logan around. She spit on Logan. And one day, she shoved Logan in a locker and closed the door and left her there.
Still, Logan said, she tried to ignore her bully, hoping the torment would stop.
In reaction to her bully’s taunts, Logan said she found herself changing to become what her bully wanted to be. She started listening to music she didn’t particularly like because it fit the bully’s profile for her. She began to dress as her bully wanted her to dress.
In time, however, Logan said, “I realized it was getting out of hand.”
Up until this point, Logan said she had told no one about what was happening. But finally, she opened up to her mother and her mother called the school.
Logan said she and her bully were called into the principal’s office. The principal’s solution to the situation was to shut Logan and her bully in a room until they became friends. When the time was up, the bully told the principal all was a-okay. But Logan spoke up. She said things were still not right.
The next day, Logan said she was waiting at the bus in the rain and her bully came along. The bully, and her friends, began poking Logan with an umbrella, calling her a “snitch.”
Despite the intervention of the principal, Logan said the bullying didn’t stop. One day at lunch, the bully started throwing chewed up food at Logan. “It was gross,” said Logan. “I was really embarrassed.”
At that moment, Logan said she felt she had two choices. She could cry or she could do something. In retaliation, she opted to throw a pile of rice at her tormentor. The bully then hit Logan in the face. The girls began to fight and the teachers had to pull them apart.
“We were both suspended,” said Logan.
There was a lesson, Logan learned. She told the children the situation could have been nipped in the bud, if she had spoken up sooner rather than simply tried to keep it to herself.
As part of the program at Edgewood, Logan offered children five tips to stop bullying.
First, Logan said they need to tell the bully what they are doing is bothering you.
Second, Logan said, children need tell the bully to stop and use the word “stop.” Let the bully know, you won’t tolerate their behavior.
Third, Logan said, children should get up and walk away. If you’re not there, said Logan, the bully can’t hurt you.
Fourth, Logan said, children should grab some friends and talk to the bully. The purpose of the friends is not to gang up on the bully but to offer you moral support as you speak your mind.
Finally, Logan said, tell a grown-up, whether it’s a teacher, principal or a parent. “They can handle it much faster than we can… No one can help you if they don’t know.”
Toward the end of the program, Logan asked the children to take her “Bully Proof” pledge. The children recited, “As a student, I pledge to treat others with respect and fairness. I pledge to speak out against bullying and report bullying to an adult. I will help others who are being bullied and support those who are recovering. I pledge to be a good role model for younger students and to help others feel safe and comfortable whenever I can. I will never use violence to solve my issues, instead I will use the ‘Five Tips’ if ever I am being bullied. I pledge to be Bully Proof.”
After the pledge, Logan opened up the assembly to comments. Several of the students used the opportunity to offer their own stories about being bullied. And Logan listened than tried to tie the child’s situation into the tips and to offer them reassurance.
For more information about Logan’s Bully Proof program, go to www.stompingoutbullying.com.