Jamie Nabozny was a target of bullying growing up in Ashland, a small town in northern Wisconsin.
In seventh grade, bullies began targeting him for being gay, taunting him with words and physical actions.
Despite going to school and district administrators for help, the harassment continued as Nabozny went into high school.
It finally ended with a beating that put Nabozny in the hospital and required abdominal surgery.
Nabozny moved to Minneapolis and decided to fight back.
He won a landmark lawsuit in federal court which established that all young people, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, deserve a safe educational experience.
Nabozny’s story is the subject of a documentary, “Bullied,” produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Nabozny brought the documentary, his story and his thoughts on bringing an end to bullying to three events at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
A morning session was held at the college’s Cambridge campus. An afternoon session took place in Coon Rapids to close out the diversity and lecture series on the campus during the 2011-2012 academic year. An evening session, sponsored by the Minnesota National Association of Multicultural Education, was also held on the Coon Rapids campus.
During the afternoon session, Nabozny encouraged those attending to put an end to bullying by using a comprehensive approach.
He said often the whole issue is not being dealt with, the bully is just being punished.
Nabozny said people need to make sure the victim is OK, not internalizing what the bully told them.
The bystanders also need to be taught what they can do to help the situation.
And while he was bullied, Nabozny said those involved need to look at why the bully is doing what he or she does.
“That kid needs just as much help as those that are victimized,” Nabozny said.
“We need to look at that as the whole picture.”
Part of the solution to ending bullying is to prevent it in the first place, Nabozny said.
“Teaching kids the skill of empathy is absolutely essential,” he said.
Nabozny said that kids also need to be taught to respect diversity and not to fear it.
He said that adults need to take the lead and create an environment that is respectful.
“We’re telling kids to go to school and respect each other when we as adults don’t,” Nabozny said.
In dealing with bullying and its consequences, Nabozny encouraged school leaders to not just make rules for kids to follow. Allow kids to be involved in making the rules.
“They will buy into the system,” he said.
“We need a student-focused attempt for this.”
There is not an epidemic of bullying or suicides today, according to Nabozny.
“We are now more aware of it,” Nabozny said.
“We need to stand up and say something. One person can make a difference.”
For more information about Nabozny, visit www.jamienabozny.com.
Kelly Johnson is at [email protected]