By Barbara Polan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Now that being bullied is no longer considered a rite of passage for schoolchildren, states and schools across the country are formulating anti-bullying policies that define “bully” and dictate ways to prevent it and procedures to follow after a bullying incident occurs.
Since 2007, Fred Jewett, who is the founder of the “Think Respect” Project (TRP), has been working to prevent bullying in several areas and was recently in Westborough moderating a 90-minute presentation and discussion called “Developing Respectful Teams,” designed specifically for youth sports coaches.
Unsportsmanlike conduct has been running rampant in many arenas – the father of a young hockey player beating another father to death; a college basketball coach attacking one of his own players; trash-talking on NFL fields; players attacking a referee during a high school football game; the frequent hazing of new teammates. Jewett believes that fostering good sportsmanship within any organization has its roots in respect for others and that TRP helps instill and “develop mutual respect and sportsmanship.”
According to Jewett, “TRP offers a comprehensive proactive approach to creating a positive climate within a school, team or organization. [It provides] an opportunity for a group to establish a philosophy based upon mutual respect … [and ways to] raise awareness about key issues and procedures that contribute to a negative environment and action plan ways to transform a negative climate into a positive one.”
When he founded TRP, Jewett based all of his programs on respect with the goal of preventing bullying and unsportsmanlike behavior.
“The name is based upon the concept that if people think about treating each other with respect first, then respect becomes the norm, not disrespect. Positive change and growth occur when mutual respect is practiced,” Jewett said.
“Everyone should be treated equally and have a chance to succeed. No one likes to be disrespected, put down, bullied, abused or made to feel unsafe or ashamed.”
Although TRP focuses on eliminating problems within schools, Jewett also believes that changing attitudes in many groups can foster civility.
“When organizations such as schools, teams, families and businesses establish mutual respect as a way of life, then everyone benefits and has an equal chance to be successful.”
Westborough's Youth and Family Services (WYFS) brought the event to town. According to WYFS Director John Badenhausen, the department's decision to bring the TRP program to Westborough resulted from the attention bullying has been getting recently.
“Schools have been required to address the issue [of bullying] and we wondered if there's a need for youth athletic teams and organizations,” he said.
Badenhausen's interest in the program was enhanced by the fact that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association recommended TRP. He explained that the presentation was also sponsored by a group of parents from Westborough, Shrewsbury, Northborough and Southborough, who received a grant to bring in Jewett.
According to Badenhausen, anyone had been welcome to attend the event, held Oct. 12, but it was designed “targeting coaches for youth teams.” In addition to local coaches, he said, attendees included the town's director of recreation and the high school's athletic director.
A videotape of the discussion continues to be broadcast on Westborough TV (WTV), according to WTV Production Manager Paul Temple, and it will also be available for viewing on the WTV website at www.westboroughtv.org.