Legislator takes stand against bullies

FOSTORIA – As a state representative from Cuyahoga County, Marlene Anielski, R-Walton Hills, dedicates herself to make people more aware and able to see and prevent bullying.

Anielski visited St. Wendelin Catholic Schools Wednesday to talk to students in grades 7-12. The visit is in light of October being anti-bullying and suicide awareness month.

The visit consisted of Anielski sharing the story of her son, Joseph, who died three years ago. Since then, she has traveled to many schools to talk about preventing bullying, including placing what are called “Ski Boxes” in schools. The boxes are designed to be confidential outlets for students to express their concerns, Anielski said.

The name of the boxes came from Joseph’s nickname from high school, “Ski.” The name and the boxes are to honor his memory. The logo on the box was created by Joseph.

As a 6-foot-tall kid, Joseph would help stop bullying situations in his high school, St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Anielski said.

She said that he would get many detentions for helping others, “he got his first detention in kindergarten,” Anielski said.

Anielski told of several types of people in bullying situations, the victim, bystander or an upstander, a person who stands up for others.

“Just think of someone being bullied is someone’s little brother or little sister,” Anielski said. “Would you want someone to bully them?”

Joseph took his life in March 2010, but she said she does not share that part of the story with students.

“We were proud of our son for standing up for others,” she said.

Anielski started visiting schools and placing the boxes in 2011. Since then, she has placed about 300 boxes in Ohio and several in Tennessee, West Virginia and one in California.

The purpose of the box, Anielski said is for those who don’t want to talk to someone face-to-face or if they are uncomfortable or embarrassed, the box is a tool for them to reach out.

In addition to the boxes, Anielski helped pass House Bill 543 to enforce suicide prevention training in schools. She also plans to try to get House Bill 74 passed, to help stop cyberstalking.

“People need to know that it is not a game anymore,” Anielski said. “People are getting hurt; words can hurt at any age.”

St. Wendelin Principal Mike Amlin said, “The box is an outlet for students to talk and help with the struggles they may be facing. We will then have the opportunity to step in whether as a teacher, as a school or through administration to help the students.”

To learn more about Ski Boxes, email Anielski at joeskibox@gmail.com.