Officers assigned to Marysville schools work to stem bullying

MARYSVILLE — The teen told Marysville police officer Jeremy Wood that she believed she would be better off dead.

Someone had made a social media post making fun of her, and it received nearly 300 comments. She felt like her whole school was against her.

“My heart sank. It was not a bluff,” Wood said. During the school year, the officer is assigned full-time to Marysville Getchell High School.

Bullying, harassment and intimidation are the biggest safety issues at local schools, he said. It happens face-to-face, via word of mouth and on social media, and not just in Marysville.

Wood and fellow officer Chris Sutherland, his counterpart at Marysville Pilchuck, decided they needed to treat bullying as a community problem. They both encounter the issue among young people, every day.

In February, they attended an anti-bullying conference in Florida. They met two people whose stories stuck with them: a teacher whose son killed himself after being bullied, and Marc Mero, a former professional wrestler who is an anti-bullying motivational speaker.

On the plane back, they decided they had to “bring that message here to the kids in Marysville,” Sutherland said. “Instead of being reactive, let’s be proactive in anti-bullying this year.”

When they approached the school district about a new program for the high schools, they were surprised by the response. The district wanted middle schools to be included, too.

“We’re really excited about it,” district spokeswoman Emily Wicks said.

Kids, especially younger ones, don’t always understand the consequences of bullying, Sutherland said. Some incidents can lead to school discipline or even prosecution, but those outcomes aren’t measures of prevention, he said.

Wood and Sutherland took their ideas to local businesses, with a goal of raising $15,000. That was what they estimated they needed to bring Mero and the teacher they met in Florida to Marysville for assemblies at every middle and high school in the district. That’s expected to happen this coming school year, likely in early 2017. They also are planning an anti-bullying poster and slogan contest for those campuses, complete with prize money.

Word of what they were doing got to Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring. He was inspired by their initiative and energy, he said.

“I am so proud of them and the many individuals and businesses in our community who have rallied to support this cause,” he said.

The officers now are nearing their financial goal, thanks to donations. They also are talking about creating some kind of summer camp for kids.

As part of the project, Wood talked to a child psychologist about bullying, someone who explained to him that when children are in fight-or-flight mode, they’re not learning.

“That’s not okay with me,” he said. “School should be a safe place and you should be going there to learn.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Donations for the Marysville police and schools anti-bullying campaign are being collected in person by uniformed officers. However, the campaign already has been used as phone scam ruse. For more information, contact the police department at 360-363-8300. Phone calls seeking donations are not legitimate and should be reported.

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