The Sky Holds Workshop to Make it Better

Before the Chicago Sky took on the Los Angeles Sparks Saturday night, kids and parents took on an even bigger issue at Allstate arena… bullying.

The Chicago Sky hosted a workshop about prevention of bullying for kids and adults and invited prominent members and organizations from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community to lead the event. On hand to talk about this important issue were Trevor Project, IL Safe School Alliance, Affinity Youth Leadership Institute, Center on Halsted, The Broadway Youth Center and State Representative Kelly Cassidy.

Kathryn Rayford, a Restorative Justice Practitioner, started the event with what she calls a Restorative Justice Circle. She joined the kids in holding hands to make a small circle while the parents made a larger circle around them. Rayford explained different experiences she has had with bullying and told stories to encourage kids to talk things out and see the other side of things. She even told a story of Little Red Riding hood from the prospective of the wolf to show kids to hear people out and be constructive, not to resort to violence.

“I talked to them about bullying and my purpose was to generate questions that were thoughtful provoking, said Rayford. “I wanted to get the kids to think about what it is they can do to reduce bullying in their schools. I was really trying to teach them about what restorative justice is and how it can apply to reducing bullying and give them some tools that they can use or talk to their schools about using to help reduce bullying.”

Also on hand to discuses her experience was State Representative and long-time gay and women’s rights activist, Kelly Cassidy.

“As a member of the GLB community, but as much about being a mom as anything else, I am so thrilled to see other organizations jumping in, finding ways to give youth tools and incentives to be engaged,” said Cassidy. “So I was thrilled to support this first, hopefully annual, effort at bullying prevention, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

“We can do things like pass the safe schools act, we can do things like create the learning standers and fund programming. But unless there are parents and kids in the schools advocating for proper implementation it is not going to be done as well. As I say we put the tools in the box and someone has to use them. And I pledge to keep more tools in the box as long as they pledge to keep picking them up and using them and we can work together and get it done. Kids need to know they are not alone and that they can make a difference and that they have more in common then they don’t and they are empowered to make chance.”

After group discussion, kids and adults broke up into groups to take part in interactive activities set up by each organization.

Loren Linder from Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, set up a youth organizing shuffle to show kids how youth organizing works in schools and communities in fun and creative ways. The ISSA is an organization that promotes safety, support and healthy development for LGBTQ youth in Illinois schools and communities, through advocacy, education, youth organizing and research.

Anthony Fleming, the co-chair of Chicago ambassador of the Trevor Project, a crisis and suicide prevention hotline for gay and lesbian youth, set up cyber boosts. Cyber boosts are intended to be the opposite of cyber bullying, asking the kids to send a positive text message or facebook post to their friends to combat cyber bullying and reinforce positive behaviors.

“I really hope that they can think of someone that can be a trusted adult,” said Fleming. “When they get into a situation where they see bullying happening, they’re going to go to a trusted adult and tell them about it, and they are going to try and be supportive of their friends and peers — even people that they are not friends with, but basically knowing where to go if they see issues and know that they have help out there.”

The event wrapped up with all the kids reciting a pledge in which they promised not to bully and if they seeing bullying to say something and help.

“I learned when to stop bullying and how to make someone feel better like sending a text to make someone smile or giving someone a smile when you walk by,” said Jenna, a youth who attended the event. “It will make their day better. To stop bullying, you don’t become a part of it, you talk about it to make it better.”