'You feel like you want to crawl into a corner': New help for teen bullies, victims

CREATED Dec. 6, 2012

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Reporter: Kevin Keen
 
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A push, shove or punch can lead to a schoolyard bully’s arrest. Soon, teens who find themselves in that situation will have a new option -- one in which they face the consequences of their actions and get help so it doesn’t happen again.
 
Pima County Teen Court is a diversion program that gives teens arrested for minor offenses like shoplifting or drug possession a chance to not have a conviction on their record. It’s been around for nearly two decades. Soon, it will offer extra help for bullies.
 
Adelita Grijalva, associate director of the court, described a situation in which a teen bully might be arrested: “It started out with bullying in a classroom and it ended up with an arrest for an assault later on the hallway," she said.
 
Organizers said those students would normally go through Teen Court workshops like one called "Keeping Your Cool." Now, a $43,336 grant from State Farm will help build a workshop specifically for bullies.
 
“We're going to really speak to how to communicate without using violence,” Grijalva said. “What are the triggers for when you're feeling upset? What is behind what is going on with you?”
 
“Maybe they have a history at home or they're going through something,” added Teen Court volunteer Susana Maduena. “Maybe we can help them with that.”
 
For five years, Maduena has helped her peers who've shoplifted, bullied or committed other minor offenses. The high school senior also knows what it's like to be bullied.
 
“You feel like you want to crawl into a corner -- just dig yourself in there,” Maduena said. “That's not right. You should be able to be yourself, however you look like, whoever you are.”
 
Organizers said this new workshop -- which is still being designed -- will target the root cause of bullying thereby preventing future victims.
 
“You’re feeling kind of pointed out in class or the lunchroom,” Maduena said. “It reflects on the person you will become or you're becoming. I've been there.”
 
Reporter Kevin Keen asked Grijalva, “What will (the grant) enable that you just couldn't have done before?” “We could never take a group of our volunteers to a conference before,” she answered, “to talk about service learning and to learn about what are the things that they can do as young people in our community to make our community better.”
 
The grant, among other things, will also help create a workshop for teens arrested for domestic violence.
 
Pima County Teen Court is looking for teen and adult volunteers. For more information, call 520-791-2711 ext. 2147.