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Norwalk Spear

Norwalk works to eliminate bullying

News outlets report the Perry incident as being possibly motivated from bullying.
Evee Rooney-Kozak
Freshman Lhotse Samuelson sits in the counseling office during third period on Friday, Mar. 1. Samuelson said she was completing a math CFU she had missed the day prior due to jazz band. She said the counseling office is a safe space, and she goes to the counseling office anytime she feels like she has a problem.

Multiple news outlets have suggested bullying as a possible motive for the shooting Jan. 4 at Perry High School that left five injured and three dead. A Norwalk student and counselor said good mental health is a priority at Norwalk High School.

The shooter, Dylan Butler, was bullied “relentlessly” since elementary school, classmates told The Independent online newspaper. The classmates reported that it was only when his younger sister started getting tormented also that it was “his last straw.”

Another media outlet, KCCI 8 News, also reported that while authorities have not yet obtained a motive to Butler’s actions, evidence points in the direction of the bullying. 

“I think it was a tragic event,” said Norwalk freshman Audrey Graves. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Perry.”

Norwalk High School’s counselor Sarah Adams said it can be hard for people to go back to school after something like this happens, but it’s important for people to get back into their regular routines.

“The world unfortunately does not stop for us, but we still need to find a way to help people cope,” she said.

Adams said at Norwalk we have multiple programs to help our students with mental health and bullying, such as Leader in Me, where the school promotes positive habits to develop when interacting with the world, the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program, where older students mentor younger students on how to stand up against any kind of violence, and the MRNA survey, where the district gets input from the community on the school climate.

“We do the MRNA survey that goes out to students and teachers that collects data,” Adams said. “The whole purpose for doing that is for kids to feel safe, and if they don’t what can we do to fix that,” she said.

Graves said Norwalk has a myriad of support for its students and one example is the MVP program.

All of the adults are here to help,” she said. “There’s not a teacher walking these halls that if a student expressed a concern they wouldn’t get help. There’s no issue that’s too small. We are always here if you have a concern or issue with something please reach out to us.”

— Sarah Adams

“At Norwalk I know we have lots of services to help the students, like when the older high schoolers come into our Warrior Time and talk to us about mental health,” said Graves. 

Adams said MVP is a reminder to behave in a respectful and friendly way towards others. 

“MVP, we’re relying on the Warrior Time teachers to give lessons for sure once or twice a year just to remind people, ‘Are you being kind? How are you treating others?’” she said. 

Adams said one of the most important things to adhere to in terms of eliminating escalation in bullying is reporting.

“If they can find the courage to say something, then we can help, but if they don’t then we don’t know and there’s nothing we can do to assist and make things better,” she said. 

Adams said it is imperative to have a trusted adult to prevent bullying from the beginning.

“Students who have their own trusted adult are likely to come to them when they’re going through a hard time,” she said.“If everybody had that, how much better things would be because maybe the bully wouldn’t revert [to bullying] as that outlet.”

In terms of bullying in Norwalk, Adams said bullying is similar compared to what it’s been in the past. 

“We probably have situations; we know it’s there,” she said. “I’m not even sure if you could say better or worse [because] I think it’s similar to what it’s been. I think we have a lot of good kids in Norwalk, and because of that, we have kids willing to report what they see because if you don’t address it it could escalate.”

Adams said that bullying has been exacerbated through a harmful facet of social media – anonymity. 

“Social media has changed our world and it’s been great because you can connect with each other, but it’s taken being cruel to another level,” she said. “That’s the part I feel bad for kids about because you can’t get away from it. When I was a kid and they didn’t like you, it would just be to your face. Nowadays you can get hurt by a perfect stranger.”

Adams said that many students experiencing or who have experienced bullying are hesitant to reach out because they’re afraid it will only make the situation worse, but Norwalk’s homepage may be a solution. 

“We had something on the Norwalk page to allow students to anonymously report incidents, [and] you can always email counselors,” she said. “I think the biggest thing is encouraging kids to stand up for themselves and come to trusted adults in the building.”

The impact of bullying on an individual’s mental health, Adams said, is devastating and deeply influential. 

“I think it’s huge,” Adams said. “I would say it’s very influential…When you hear negative messages over and over again. What that does to your mental health and what that does to a person feeling like they have worth or that they belong here, it takes all of that away.”

For this reason Adams said Norwalk tries its best to prevent bullying with numerous methods and supportive staff. 

“All of the adults are here to help,” she said. “There’s not a teacher walking these halls that if a student expressed a concern they wouldn’t get help. There’s no issue that’s too small. We are always here if you have a concern or issue with something, please reach out to us.”

Graves said that the resources and support provided by Norwalk allows her to thrive. 

“I really like my community in Norwalk,” she said. “I have friends and teachers that can support me. I know that I can succeed with my teachers and coaches whose help benefits me for the future.” 

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Evee Rooney-Kozak, Staff Writer
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