Youth conference trains students to become active bystanders

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The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office sponsored a conference for local students Friday, encouraging them to become “active bystanders.”

“We all have the potential to be harm-doers and we all have the potential to be targets,” said Laurie Loisel, director of community outreach and education at the DA’s office.

After hearing from several schools, where bullying has become a problem, the DA’s office turned to Quabbin Mediation to offer active bystander training at the 7th annual day-long Youth Conference.

This year’s trainers are students from Athol, Mahar, Pioneer Valley Regional and Granby high schools.

“They get the chance of being leaders and teachers and the students to learn from them and look up to them, and it’s a real student-centered activity,” Loisel told 22News.

Active Bystander training teaches students how to stand up for their classmates who may be targeted, taking responsible, thoughtful action rather than remaining passive. But it also teaches that we can all be harm-doers.

“To be able to recognize why someone is saying something or why someone is doing something is really important because you just want to try to have empathy or sympathy for someone,” said Amara Balk, a 12th-grader at Pioneer Valley Regional School.

Avery Caputo, an 8th-grader at Hampshire Regional High School, told 22News, “There are definitely students that are drawn to taking their own lives or harming themselves because of bullying and like I said before, if you’re kind of a quiet student it can help you like speak up and stop something from growing to be harmful.”

Past conferences have focused on building student leadership skills and substance use prevention.

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