LIHUE — Teddy Arroyo, president of the Kauai Pop Warner Football League, became associated with the Mauka to Makai anti-bullying campaign after hearing stories about the son of an assistant coach, who was being bullied.
Then he heard from a woman whose granddaughter, a cheerleader with the KPWFL, refused to go to school because she was a victim of bullying.
Arroyo was among those attending the Mauka to Makai anti-bullying program and symposium Saturday at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
“Sports groups and teams are very influential in the lives of young people,” said Stacie Chiba-Miguel, a member of the Mauka to Makai committee. “We definitely want to work with sports organizations to help with the anti-bullying message. Today’s symposium covers building resilience among young people as well as dealing with bullying within the team and organization.”
At one point, the crowd was asked to stand if they had ever been bullied in their lives. Clara Mackler, another member of the committee, then asked people to sit back down if they were helped with the situation by a “trusting adult.” Only a handful sat down.
When Mackler asked, “Who was the trusting adult who helped stop the bullying?” the first answer was “a coach.”
Mackler said the group of more than a hundred people, representing various youth sports organizations, are key to stopping the bullying, and also to helping those who are victims.
“You folks make good soldiers,” said Commander Pamela Ellison of the Hawaii National Guard, who, along with the Kauai Marriott, hosted the call-to-action symposium. “Kauai is the only place in the state with an island-wide campaign against bullying, and the National Guard is very involved and hopes to be a conduit to the rest of the state.”
According to statistics provided by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, also a major with the National Guard, every seven minutes in the United States, a child is bullied. Only four out of 100 adults will step in to stop it, while 85 percent of a child’s peers will do nothing.
“Some of you may remember a time when you were a victim of bullying,” Gabbard said in a message delivered by Kaulana Finn, her Kauai liaison and regional director for Big Brothers Big Sisters Kauai. “Some may remember being the person doing the bullying. Either way, we know that in one way or another, both are victims. We can also reflect on those moments where the power within us helped us overcome that moment of adversity.”
Arroyo said there are a lot of bullying stories out there.
“What I left out is ‘What are we going to do?’” he said. “We cannot go to the schools because of the privacy laws. Where do we go for help?”
Bill Arakaki, the Kauai Area Complex superintendent, said the Department of Education is aware and concerned about the 9.9 percent of Hawaii Health Risk Management respondents in 2015 who noted that schools are not safe. This is an increase of nearly 3 percent from respondents in the 2010 survey. The National Education Association estimates that every day in America, more than 160,000 children miss school out of fear of being bullied.
“Everyone is impacted by bullying,” Arakaki said. “Children spend one-third of their day in school, and we want children to feel safe in school. The impact of bullying is long-lasting. I’m 60 years old, and I still remember the experience I had.”
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association, on its home page, addresses bullying.
“Let’s try and give everyone a positive high school experience by curbing bullying,” the HHSAA website states. “We need to recognize that bullying can happen anywhere — in school, on social media and even on the (athletic) field. We need to report and act on it. Not doing anything is acceptance.”