'Teaching Empathy' anti-bullying program

May 18, 2010 3:47:13 PM PDT
The "Teaching Empathy" anti-bullying program is helping kids to understand each other at one city school. Part of a program to prevent school bullying is simply talking about it.

David Levine created the weekly program, which he runs at P.S./M.S. 20 and at several other schools in the city and the suburbs. He calls it, "Teaching Empathy".

"Empathy is the capacity to imagine what someone else is going through, as a first step, and then making a choice to offer support," said David Levine, a behavior specialist.

The students have their own stories about being bullied.

"They called me names and they started pushing me around and trying to take advantage of me," said student, Benjamin Rosado.

They also talked about bullying others.

"I would make fun of their hair, or I would make fun of their name because that's what they used to do to me," said student, Porsha Williams.

Eyewitness News asked Porsha, "How do you feel about having done that?"

"It doesn't feel good," Williams said.

Educators at the school and its creator agree that the "Teaching Empathy" program is tailor made to deal with the issue of bullying, an issue which has taken on new and tragic meaning as the result of a recent criminal case.

The Massachusetts case led to the suicide of the bullying victim, Phoebe Prince, and the arrests of other students who allegedly harassed her to the point of despair.

"Bullying needs to be taken seriously. It's not a rite of passage. It's wrong. It should not be tolerated," Levine said.

Students and educators admit bullying has not been eliminated at P.S./M.S. 20, but progress is being made.

"We've learned how to discuss our disagreements without, you know, yelling and fighting with each other," said student, Marsela Binoshi.

It seems that having the issue out in the open, is a good start.