Alex Levy
Bullying Survivor
Male | New Canaan, CT   United States
Bullied no more: St. Luke’s student speaks out
Bullying Type: Physical / Emotional
Posted By: HelpingAll
9/23/13 12:00 AM
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Alex Levy, a 15-year-old student at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, is no stranger to bullying and the feelings of despair and isolation that come with it. A victim of severe bullying before he attended St. Luke’s, Alex is now using his past torment to help educate others.

Alex is a teen ambassador for STOMP Out Bullying, an organization that strives to assist kids and teens and focuses on reducing and preventing bullying, cyber bullying and other forms of digital abuse, while also providing education to stop violence, racism and homophobia in schools.

In the wake of last month’s suicide of 15-year-old Greenwich High School sophomore Bart Palosz, Greenwich Selectman Drew Marzullo invited the organization’s CEO Ross Ellis to address the town’s Board of Selectmen. As an anti-bullying advocate, Alex tagged along.

When Alex got up to speak to the Board of Selectmen, he cited the writer Zack W. Van as saying, “Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates super heroes. It’s a rare occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment.”

“I, along with my fellow teen ambassadors, consider ourselves super heroes in context,” Alex said. “We overcame the bullying. We overcame the harassment. We overcame our tormentors and I stand strong in front of you here today all thanks to Ross Ellis and the amazing work she and others do. But not everyone is as strong or as lucky. To survive bullying takes internal strength and external support. It takes parental involvement. It takes school engagement. It takes courage on the part of those who see what is happening to be intolerant of the bully. When all of these things don’t come together, sadly, we have a tragedy like the loss of an innocent 15-year-old who had his whole life ahead of him but who chose to stop the pain in the only way he saw available.”

Alex insisted that “suicide is never the answer,” but said he identified with the feelings of despair, isolation, loneliness and pain that he imagined Bart must have felt.

“He must have felt that the only way to stop the abuse would be to disappear and the only way to disappear was to end his life,” Alex said. “He made, I’m sure, the only decision he felt he could. But now it is our responsibility to make sure he is not forgotten and that we do everything in our power to make changes in the community and around the world so tragedies like this stop.”

Saying that “Bullying should never be thought of as an issue someone else will deal with later on,” Alex called for more proactive responses from school officials and for students who witness bullying to do something about it.

Bart’s suicide has spurred increased focus on the issue of bullying in school, and while the details of why Bart committed suicide after the first day of school remain unknown, according to his sister and classmates, he had been the victim of relentless bullying at both Greenwich High School and Western Middle School. A police investigation as well as one looking into the allegations of bullying led by Greenwich’s town attorney are ongoing.

“Bullying and cyberbullying are such serious issues for kids,” Ellis told Greenwich selectmen. “Kids bully because they learn this behavior at home, have low self esteem, have been bullied themselves, want to be popular or just because. They don’t need a reason. Unfortunately many adults think it’s a right of passage and it isn’t. Today bullying has escalated in ways we never even dreamed of.”

While many details about Bart’s experiences in the Greenwich Public Schools have not been officially released, Ellis discussed reports of him being constantly bullied with many knowing what was happening. She cited his Google+ page which has been a cause of much speculation that he had been planning his suicide for some time. Ellis said decisions like these are made without thinking of the consequences of it such as the impact on family and friends and that they don’t under stand that “suicide is forever.”

“If only someone had paid attention to Bart’s pain,” Ellis said. “No kid should ever, ever be planning their death. So many suicides come from contagion behavior [where social influences play a part in actions] and kids don’t have the emotional capacity to handle the pain of bullying. There are usually other things involved, but bullying exacerbates whatever else might be going on.”

She added, “As painful as bullying is, it’s not forever. Suicide is. They have no sense of tomorrow, only today.”

In order to prevent future tragedies, Ellis recommended education to make sure people know the forms and signs of bullying as well as the signs of suicide. But, she stressed, this was not just to help identify kids being bullied, but to find the bullies as well.

More information is available online at

In New Canaan

New Canaan’s public school district has a safe school climate plan in place that Superintendent Dr. Mary Kolek said is constantly reviewed by educators at the school and district level. Asked how bullying is monitored within the schools, Kolek said educators first focus on positive behavior and then go from there.

“Are students kind and caring and connected with each other?” she asked. “Teachers are looking for positive healthy behaviors, and we have a framework that describes what that looks like. Then we look at the warning signs — absenteeism, warnings in class, changes in behavior — and we are constantly listening carefully to what students say.”

Another important factor, according to Kolek, and one that is often more difficult to master, is getting students to report back to teachers, administrators and other adults within the schools.

“They should come to tell us if they are experiencing difficulty or if they know of a friend who is,” Kolek said. “It is so important to get students to report and to get an adult to know what it happening. That is always a challenge, but we are constantly working on it.”

Kolek also noted the importance of the school district working closely with parents and community organizations, such as churches and sports groups, where students often meet in groups and have adults as role models.

“We try to stay connected so we have a similar message,” Kolek said. “The more adults that stand shoulder to shoulder, the fewer cracks we will have.”

Kolek explained the difficulty of monitoring students when they are on social networking sites and said much of that activity occurs after school hours. She mentioned an event New Canaan Cares is offering concerning the responsibilities and technical knowledge required to skillfully parent the cyber generation. Cares is partnering with Katie Koestner, a national expert on student safety and adolescent/teen relationship culture, to present Cyber Safety and Digital Footprint: Skillfully Parenting the Cyber Generation, on Tuesday, Oct. 1, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Waveny House. There will also be a daytime program on Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 9:30 to 11 at Saxe Middle School. More details regarding the event are on page 4C.

New Canaan’s Board of Education also plans to hear a presentation on the safe school climate plan from Darlene Pianaka, assistant superintendent for student and family services, during its meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 in the high school’s Wagner Room.

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Name: Alex Levy
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Country: United States
Location: New Canaan, CT
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