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West Branch community rallies against bullying of homecoming representative

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The harmful effects of bullying are making global headlines once again this week in the wake of a recent high school prank pulled on a West Branch teen.

Earlier this month, a homecoming prank was played on sophomore Whitney Kropp at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Michigan. Classmates of Kropp decided to nominate her for court as a joke; Kropp, not knowing of the joke, was really excited to represent her class. When the word got out that it was a prank, Kropp was devastated and didn’t want to go to homecoming.

People in her community heard about what happened and began rallying to give her free dinner, photos, hair and nail design, shoes, gown, and tiara for last Saturday’s dance. The community has pulled together to stand up and use their voice against this act of bullying. They have created a Facebook page Support Whitney Kropp that has received 96,105 likes and is still growing to support her and to advocate for anti-bullying.

While this cruel high school prank has inspired people around the globe to like the teen’s Facebook page and take a virtual stand against bullying, efforts are being made here at Grand Rapids Community College to educate the campus community about the issue.

GRCC Woodrick Diversity Learning Center hosted the Bullying and Harassment Seminar on September 24 during which participants learned how to recognize and define bullying, its consequences, reviewed prevention polices, and learned methods, actions and intervention strategies that can be taken.

The definition of bullying presented at the workshop is a persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior, an abuse of power or an unfair sanction which makes the recipient feel upset, threated, humiliated or vulnerable.

Bullying is a form of victimization. It is not a form of conflict but rather an unprovoked harassment that makes the victim have a difficult time of defending him or herself. The platinum rule from this seminar was “Treat others as they want to be or need to be treated.”

Kathleen Owens, a consultant and facilitator for the GRCC Diversity Learning Center, was pleased with how this seminar went.

“Our goal is that everyone’s voices in the room are heard, and in this workshop, all were heard,” Owens said.

GRCC Diversity Learning Center hosts many workshops, seminars and lectures throughout the year on various topics, including bullying.

In reference to the case in West Branch, voices at GRCC speak up about this high school prank that turned people in the community to take action.

“I think bullying has gone way too far and kids have found too many ways to do it. It is great what her community is doing, and I hope her classmates learn and take something from this experience,” said Brooke Jensen, a sophomore at GRCC.

Tamber Bustance, Manager of Diversity Developing Services at GRCC and co-facilitator at the bullying seminar, has similar thoughts.

“As we talked about in our seminar, the main focus is for every voice to be heard in the room and the importance of people lifting up those voices to stop harassment and bullying is so important.” Bustance said. One of our student groups says, ‘You don’t have to be one to stand with,’ meaning you can stand up for anyone, no matter what group, clique, or family they come from. You see that example at West Branch: people standing up.”

Bullying has many consequences; some can even be life threatening. That is one reason many organizations, celebrities, and communities stand against it. A few are Colin Farrell, Joe Jonas, Ellen DeGeneres, Jason Derulo, GRCC and the West Branch community. In the past, bullying was said to “build character,” but in today’s world, the public has begun a zero tolerance policy for bullying.