Local writer shares advice with students on dealing with bullies

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BENNINGTON >> Local author and PAVE consulting specialist Steve Breakstone spoke to students at the Molly Stark School on Thursday about how to deal with bullying.

Breakstone, the author of "The Wallop Story: How I Learned to Stop the Bullying," has been working with students at Molly Stark since November as part of a sexual abuse and violence prevention grant that PAVE, the Project Against Violent Encounters, received. Breakstone works with students of all ages across Bennington County to help them learn self-calming techniques, conflict resolution, how to make friends, how to respond to bullies, what to do if you're a bystander to bullying, and more."

On Thursday, Breakstone read his book to fourth grade students, while a slideshow of the illustrations from the book, by DM Eason, was displayed behind him.

"This is my story about bullying," said Breakstone, "when I went from third grade in one school to fourth grade in another school." The book followed the story of a young Steve, who, in his new school, found himself the victim of bullying for the first time. From his father's not-great advice on how to deal with the bullies ("Wallop them!"), Steve eventually comes to realize, with the help of his new friends, to have confidence in himself and not let the bullies know that they're bothering him.

"When my father gave me that advice," said Breakstone, "it wasn't really good advice, because there was too much information missing." His father, Breakstone said, had been trying to tell him that it was okay to defend himself, but only if the bullies punched him first. However, what eventually worked for Steve was not fighting, but standing up for himself and telling the bullies to stop, and then ignoring them when they continued. Eventually, the bullying stopped entirely.

After the presentation, Breakstone took questions from the students, most of whom were interested in his writing process. Breakstone said that it usually took him a year to write and perfect his books, then more time to find a publisher. He discussed working with co-author Mike Dreiblatt, who helped him take his story and paring it down into a readable book.

Breakstone has written three books, two about bullying, and one about walking across Washington State with his dog.

Breakstone said that when he visits classrooms, he and students roleplay the proper ways to deal with bullies, and discuss the best ways to communicate. For example, he said, the difference between assertive communication and talking back, and the difference between teasing and taunting. Many kids, he said, get their sense of humor from comedy shows, the jokes from which, when used in real life, can be quite harmful to others.

Breakstone said that a lot of factors can go into why someone gets bullied. In his case, Breakstone said, it was because he was the new kid. "When I lived in New York City, I felt safe, because I had grown up there. Then we moved to the suburbs, because my parents thought I would be safer, but that's where I got bullied."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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