Seminar helps defuse bullying

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PONDERAY — For kids around the world, school bullying can turn into a nightmare with no signs of recourse in sight.

Mike Szotkowski, owner of Sandpoint Taekwondo Center, hopes to help empower Bonner County’s bullying victims with a free seminar on Wednesday from 5-6:30 p.m.The class is open to all kids as long as they are accompanied by a parent. It will emphasize verbal and body language techniques that children can use to extinguish bullying tactics before the situation gets out of hand. Using role-playing situations and drills that kids and parents can practice at home, the seminar teaches skills that help kids keep their cool in a confrontation.

“The idea is to help the child feel more prepared and calm when being picked on by a bully,” Szotkowski said. In addition, Szotkowski teaches martial arts as a means of last resort when self-defense becomes necessary.

“Our goal is to be non-physical if possible. We want to give kids the skills they need to diffuse the situation,” Szotkowski said. “We teach self-defense techniques not to hurt the bully but to protect the child.”Szotkowski recognized the need for a seminar assisting bullied kids after a number of parents reported problems their kids experienced in school. He was also surprised that most of it was occurring in the younger age groups of third and fourth grade.

“In the course of this year already, parents have already approached me with more cases of bullying than all of last year combined,” he said. Statistics indicate that one in every three kids experience bullying during their education. The National Education Association also reports that 160,000 children across the country skip school every day for fear of bullying. Given that data, Szotkowski decided to offer help curbing its influence in Bonner County.

“We do fire drills to help our kids in emergency situations, when in reality, they’re far more likely to face a bully,” he said. According to Szotowski, that potentiality is especially grave given the long term effects of bullying. He said the psychological impact can create low self-esteem and depression that will persist well into adulthood. Research from the U.S. Secret Service states that bullying is a powerful factor in the majority of school shootings.

Beyond the Wednesday seminar, Szotkowski offers martial arts lessons and fitness programs for all ages. He also teaches a two-month Bully Proof class for more extensive training in abuse prevention. “My heart bleeds for kids that are picked on,” he said. “Those kids are looking to adults to do something about this, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Sandpoint Taekwondo Center is located in the Walmart Shopping Center and is reachable at 610-2577.

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