Miss New York offers anti-bullying advice

John Christensen
Miss New York Kaitlin Monte

Kaitlin Monte, 2011’s Miss New York, paid a visit to Penn Yan Middle School bringing a message of courage in the face of cyber-bullying. The 22-year-old Pittsford native is using her crown to gain recognition for this crime that the law has not yet caught up with.

“The old dudes in Albany don’t really understand it,” she told the middle-schoolers. That’s why she is bringing a 20-question census to schools, and encouraging students to go online to let their experiences with cyber-bullying be heard by legislators responsible for making an effective law. The questionnaire is available online at www.nycyberbullycensus.com .

Monte did not take up this cause randomly. She was herself a long-standing victim of a cyber-bully; an ex-boyfriend who would not stop sending her harassing texts and e-mails. Police told her unless he threatened her physically, there was nothing they could do. They advised her to change her number. She felt that wasn’t right — that she shouldn’t have to hide from her bully. Lucky for her, she said, another more sympathetic police officer listened to her, and with some other officers, surrounded the bully and warned him off.

She advised a three-step strategy for dealing with bullies:

• First was STOP! Tell the bully to stop because you do not like it and will not tolerate it. But she also warned against responding with violence, suggesting a “Take Five activity,” something that calms you down if you are angry. The students suggested music, video games, pets and playing sports as possible Take Fives.

• Next was BLOCK! Defriend the bully on Facebook or Twitter, and do not reply to any text from them. When face-to-face, simply get away from the bullying behavior.

• Third was TELL! Tell a responsible adult. She asked students if they had ever reported bullying to an adult, but nothing changed. Many hands went up. Like she did, they will have to talk to another adult, and if necessary, another until enough is done to make it stop.

She also wants the students to remember not to just stand by when they see someone else being bullied, reminding them that if they do nothing, then they are part of the bullying. STOP-BLOCK-TELL works for bystanders too. “Remember your Hero’s Pledge. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” she said.

Monte’s father once told her something she has always remembered: “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Many groups are working separately against bullying, but are divided by their own desire to get the credit for any progress, Monte said, adding “That’s not the point. The point is to make a difference.”

She spoke of politicians meeting with her expecting a photo opportunity and a little polite chat with Miss New York. What they get is an intelligent college graduate who wants answers on what they are going to do to stop this epidemic of online harassment.

She asked the students if they had heard of Jamie Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old freshman at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied about his sexuality for years. This is exactly what it is her mission to stop. “Growing up, I was picked on, too, for being a geek and funny looking. But if I can go on to Miss America, even if I don’t win, I’ll know I stood up for something,” she explained.

People wishing to know more about Kaitlin Monte’s anti-bullying mission may visit her own website at www.MissNewYork2011.blogspot.com.