Presenter:  Erica Weiler-Timmins, Director of Psychological Services at Milton Hershey School
September 18, 2017

“It is important to establish a culture of inclusion and respect for individual differences”

The first in a series of Hershey All Things Diversity Sessions was presented by Erica Weiler-Timmins, Ph.D., ABPP, Director of Psychological Services and Training at Milton Hershey School on Monday, September 18, at the Hershey Story Museum.

Bullying and inclusiveness cannot coexist. Bullying is unacceptable in an inclusive environment and a community is not inclusive when bullying is permitted to take place. Everyone must do their part to prevent and stop bullying to achieve a safe and inclusive community. Dr. Weiler-Timmins discussed the prevalence of observed or perceived unwanted aggressive behavior in schools in the United States. “One in five U.S. students will be bullied in school with a higher percentage occurring in middle school. Bullying occurs across all ages, socioeconomic classes, races, and cultures”, said Weiler-Timmins.

She explained that students can become victims of bullying that is physically and verbally aggressive, social in nature causing harm to their reputation and relationships, or through the use of cyber/electronic forms of communication.

Bullying negatively affects bullies, victims, bystanders, parents, schools, and a community as a whole. Studies show that students who bully and want to dominate others are more likely to drop out of school, abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in criminal activity, and have more difficulty keeping a job as an adult. Dr. Weiler-Timmins stressed the importance for parents to be a good role model for their children and to teach them that bullying is unacceptable and that there are consequences to violent behavior and mistreating others. Parents should limit exposure to television that contains violence and encourage empathy for others.

Victims of bullying can suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression and become fearful of their safety at school. Parents may see warning signs that their child is being bullied such as losing their belongings, unexplained bruises and scratches, being afraid to go to school, losing interest in school, or a decline in grades. She recommends that parents talk to their children regularly about their daily life and keep the lines of communication open. Ask them if someone is treating them badly. Reassure your child that if they are being bullied, it is not their fault and do not criticize how your child is responding to the bullying. Immediately contact your child’s principal to tell them about your concerns. Provide your child with methods to prevent the bullying such as telling a teacher and being with friends or in a group.

Those who are a witness to bullying or know that someone is being bullied can feel anxiety, stress, and guilt. Anti-bullying programs in schools are effective and teach students that bullying will not be tolerated, encourage students to report bullying, and teach them to stand up to bullies and to help others. Dr. Weiler-Timmins recommends that we “harness the power of students and give bystanders the tools to step in and intervene and do the right thing.”

Dr. Weiler-Timmins is a Pennsylvania Licensed Psychologist, a Pennsylvania Certified School Psychologist and is Board Certified in School Psychology, with 20 years of experience serving at-risk youth.

All of the seats were reserved in advance for this event with representation from parents, school administrators, local government services, and citizens supportive of inclusion. “The Township of Derry asks all citizens to stand together to protect the rights of everyone and to show strength and solidarity against discrimination and negative behavior towards others. As a community, we value individual differences and support inclusion”, said Derry Township Supervisor Susan Cort.

The second session, navigating the Generations: Creating an Inclusive Community for All Ages will be presented by Lynette Chappell-Williams, Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine on November 20, from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. at the Hershey Story Museum.