Norwalk Council sends message about bullying

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Norwalk Public Works Committee Chairman David McCarthy (R-District E) unveils a consciousness awareness raising tool at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. McCarthy said he hoped to see the bumper stickers all over Norwalk.

NORWALK, Conn. – Everything was beautiful for a while at the Norwalk Common Council Tuesday as an anti-bullying resolution was unanimously approved, without any comment as to why the sponsorship of the resolution had been changed.

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large), who said before the meeting that two of the sponsors of the resolution were themselves guilty of bullying, offered no resistance.

Public Works Committee Chairman David McCarthy (R-District E), one of those named by Kimmel, read the resolution into the record. He also produced bumper stickers, which he said would help raise awareness.

This is anti-bullying month, McCarthy said, and it is therefore a good thing that the resolution was tabled several times due to larger issues taking up much of the Council’s time. It’s reported that one in three students report being bullied, and 13 percent report being bullied online, he said. More than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes, but only 64 percent of bullying victims report the problem, he said.

Mayor Harry Rilling said McCarthy had amended the resolution to make it sponsored by the entire Council.

Kimmel said before the meeting that he would do that. A majority of Council members agreed with him that McCarthy and Watts were bullies, he said.

His comments at the meeting were mainly a response to comments left on this website that the Council should be doing more important things.

“Perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment I often read blogs,” he said. “People say a lot of things. … These folks must be living in a bubble and never reading news and newspapers.”

A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study showed that 20 percent of the student body had been bullied, he said.

“Any time any legislative body has an opportunity to weigh in, even if only symbolically, on an issue, I think we should jump at it and let the people of Norwalk know we are dealing with this issue, that we are on their side,” Kimmel said. “We do think it’s reprehensible. There’s not a whole lot we can do as a legislative body but we will do this. I thank Mr. McCarthy for having the imagination and the wherewithal to come up with something concrete.”

Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said that as a recent high school graduate and student at Norwalk Community College she knows how important this is.

“Bullying has evolved from something that usually ended when you got off the bus or when you got home to something that is now in your home 24/7, no matter what, or when you are on your computer or on your cellphone,” she said. “For us to remember that a lot of rules and consequences for bullies are not up to date … It’s not getting better, it’s honestly getting worse. So thank you guys for bringing this up.”

Watts said it was to bring awareness to a serious issue.

Rilling said he had been on two panels at anti-bullying presentations in the last two weeks at Brien McMahon High School. He had asked the kids how many of them had been bullied.

“I was amazed at the number of hands that went up. It was sad,” Rilling said. “They felt there was no place to turn but by speaking about these issues, by talking about them instead of sweeping them under the carpet…  awareness and education is empowering the people to move forward and to get on with their lives. We can stop and eradicate altogether the bullying.”

Missing from the meeting was a Norwalk citizen who spoken at the three previous meetings urging that Council members themselves need to be trained not to bully.

Activist Diane Lauricella has named McCarthy as the council member she feels bullies citizens. She sent an email to the Council before the meeting:

“I am unable to attend tonight’s meeting but want to offer for the record the following additional thoughts and ideas related to the anti-bullying resolution presented tonight.  I would appreciate if one of you could print this out and submit it for the record.

“I still see and experience fallout from past bullying behavior that hurts our quality of life, effective governance and pursuit of civic engagement.

“While I am pleased the Council is giving this matter recognition, I feel that a more serious effort to reduce bullying behavior,  as stated in the last few paragraphs of the resolution, must also be implemented as soon as possible target-marketing both youth and adults:

“• Human Relations Commission: I plan to propose their involvement  at their November meeting but would love to include Council and Mayor’s Office in planning some training/sensitivity workshops, suggesting reading materials, and holding people to account.

“• Council Ordinance Committee: I plan to propose some ordinance language that could help city appointed and elected officials refrain from bullying behavior with standards of conduct, counseling and outcomes that reduce bullying behavior.  Other towns have language that possibly CCM may be able to research.

“• Office of City Clerk/Assistant City Clerk: I had spoken to Ms. King and Herring in the past about special training events for Council, and they may know of grants and help plan for a few guided workshops.

“• Library/City Hall:  Set up a series of speakers individually aimed at adults and youth for a “community conversation” format.

“• Organizational Management/Dispute Resolution Expert Consultants: Bullying has become a national topic that affects school, government , work and family lives.  There are a wealth of professionals who could be brought in to offer mediation/dispute resolution services, possibly including suitable trained clergy.”

Her email was not mentioned during the meeting.

NancyOnNorwalk attempted to ask McCarthy after the meeting why a bullying resolution came out of the Public Works Committee. McCarthy walked away and into the caucus chambers before the question could be asked.


8 responses to “Norwalk Council sends message about bullying”

  1. Suzanne

    Flip flopping by Mr. Kimmel, cloying sincerity, let MIT take care of its own 20%, the schools and parents who allow their kids computer time when they are being bullied could address the issue, DL’s proposal to civilize this Council – since everyone seems to be being bullied, I proclaim this bullying the reader and voter month for all of the irrelevant work the Council seems to be working on instead of digging in and working on real issues on behalf of the taxpayer.

  2. Oldtimer

    Without necessarily being a fan of either councilman named as bullies, it is important to understand that strong advocates, while sometimes annoying, are only bullies, in an adult situation such as council meetings, when they are allowed to be. Anybody on the council who allows another councilman to intimidate should not be on the council. Speeches about how offended a councilman is by another’s speech should not be allowed. Who really cares ? That response only empowers the so-called bully. It is exactly the response he is looking for.

    For the council to pass a strictly symbolic motion opposing bullying may send a good message to school children, but most of us expect candidates for elected office to have learned how to deal with bullies long before announcing their campaigns. Council meetings are not school playgrounds, where most of us learned to be victims or how to fight back.

  3. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record:I said I would not support the resolution unless the entire Council was listed as the sponsor. That’s what happened

  4. Suzanne

    Mr. Kimmel, The subject is whether the topic needed to be raised at all. One would expect mutual respect within the Council and toward the public. That should have been a private matter within the Council to discuss and get their act together. That time was spent on this matter at all shows how debilitated the Council is when it comes to taking on real issues.

    Schools, parents, workplaces, etc., don’t need your support on this issue but, apparently, the council does. An excellent video recommended and suggested by Kathleen Montgomery on this topic could be viewed by each member.

    This was a dubious use of the Council’s time, especially when there are so many more important issues that need attention on behalf of all taxpayers in Norwalk, ostensibly the people this Council is supposed to represent and work for.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Good idea to stop the practice of bullying. Seeing Mr. McCarthy holding the Stop the Bullying Sign: priceless! File that under classic oxymorons like “authentic reproduction”, “jumbo shrimp”, or “act naturally”. Mr. McCarthy has a great sense of humor! Thanks for the good laugh, I needed that.

  6. piberman

    Many would claim that Council are “bullying” the citizens by shirking their responsibilities to control city spending and ending punitive property taxes.

  7. Kathleen Montgomery

    Mike, what made me laugh out loud was that this resolution was about school children. Talk about major denial! And these same people will pat themselves on the back for years about their Bullying Resolution. Not a freaking clue. Saying that they act like kindergarten students is an insult to those students.

    Folks, please understand that,unlike school bullying, workplace bullies operate within the established rules and policies of their organization in both overt and covert ways. Look at yourselves on NON videos. Read what you say in NON articles. Get a clue.

  8. Kathleen Montgomery

    One more oxymoron: responsible council members.

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