Counselor publishes anti-bullying curriculumWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Frank DiLallo hopes to leave a legacy of changed lives.
The licensed professional counselor, who currently serves as prevention/intervention schools consultant for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, has developed an innovative anti-bullying curriculum he hopes area schools will implement.
After testing and tweaking the curriculum for 10 years, DiLallo recently published a teacher’s manual and student workbook that outlines the three-phase program.
A faith-based version called “Peace Be With You: Christ-Centered Bullying Solution,” co-authored by Thom Powers, weaves Bible verses and theology into the text and was published in March. A secular version called “Peace2U: Three-Phase Bullying Solution” is due in May.
“As far as I know, this would be the first Scripture-based bullying prevention program that exists,” DiLallo said.
Both versions were published by Alliance for Catholic Education Press at the University of Notre Dame and come with a free digital download of “The Peace Project,” a CD DiLallo released in 2001, which has been remixed to sync with the workbooks. The CD features original music composed and performed by local Grammy-nominated musician Tim Story.
The idea is for educators to use the lesson plans to implement the curriculum without DiLallo, he said.
“As I’ve been doing this, I’ve realized there’s just not enough of me to go around and I need to start writing on this. What if I die tomorrow? I really want to leave a legacy here,” DiLallo said.
A series of recent teen suicides blamed on bullying generated nationwide attention, with celebrities like Crystal Bowersox and Justin Bieber addressing the issue as well, DiLallo said.
“People know what bullying is and how to identify it,” DiLallo said. “Now what they want to know is what do we do about it? What kind of strategies are out there?”
Targeting grades four through eight, DiLallo’s program has been used in more than 60 schools in Ohio and Michigan, mostly Catholic schools. Locally, he has worked with St. Benedict Catholic School, St. John’s Jesuit Academy and Christ the King School.
The first phase of the program focuses on leadership, helping students understand social responsibility.
“My hope is for students to realize that everything they say and everything they do has impact and influences others, even if they consider themselves followers,” DiLallo said. “A lot of it is about attitude. I want them to own that they have the power to influence the kind of school they want to create.”
In the second phase, which focuses on interpersonal skills, students circle their chairs and are invited to share how they’ve wronged others or been wronged and to reconcile by working through a five-step conflict resolution process DiLallo calls Clear Talk.
“This is what sets my model apart from anything I’ve studied and seen out there,” DiLallo said. “Doing it as a community makes it evident that if this happened as a community, the only way to remedy it is as a community. We need to make it transparent and have others hold us accountable. It’s this under-the-radar stuff that goes on that makes bullying so pervasive in our culture.”
DiLallo said he find most students are aware of bullying behavior around them. He uses this to illustrate how such behavior coupled with active and passive bystanders form a top-heavy inverted triangle that puts pressure directly on the targeted student.
“I’ll ask ‘What did you do?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘I laughed,’” DiLallo said. “So then what we have is 90 percent of the classroom admitting they were an active or passive bystander. So then I can show them an inverted triangle right there in their classroom. And now some of them are weeping because they are now in touch with the reality. Usually there’s a lot of apologies that happen. It’s really, really powerful.”
The third phase, focusing on intrapersonal skills, works to further build personal abilities to combat bullying behavior.
Since November, DiLallo has been working with sixth, seventh and eighth-graders at Toledo’s St. Benedict Catholic School.
Teri Fischer, sixth-grade homeroom teacher and language arts teacher at St. Benedict, said students are responding to the program.
“Just this week my sixth-graders said, ‘We need to do one of the sessions where we get in the circle and support someone who is trying to work out a problem,’” Fischer said. “So I see that as a positive sign.”
Fischer also had an eighth-grade student write a journal entry about the circle and how it changed her life for the better.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so cool,’” Fischer said. “I think the kids have been given the tools to help solve some of the issues, especially with the communication part of what do you do when you’re faced with this. I also think just getting it out in the open that adults are aware of what’s going on, kids don’t feel so alone.”
DiLallo will speak to Catholic school principals, teachers and counselors about his curriculum from 4 to 5 p.m. April 11 at St. John’s, 5901 Airport Hwy.
Singer-songwriter Lee Domann, nationally known for his anti-bullying song “Howard Gray” and who gave DiLallo permission to use the lyrics in his books, will speak at 5 p.m., followed by a light supper. Both men will be available to sign books, CDs and DVDs.
Catholic school staff members can register for the event through April 6 by visiting www.toledodiocese.org.
‘Code of Silence’
A free concert open to the public is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m., featuring performances by Domann as well as local singer-songwriter Kerry Clark, who will debut “The Code of Silence,” an anti-bullying song written by DiLallo.
Clark got to know DiLallo through their mutual work with nonprofits.
“I was truly moved by his heart, his dedication to people, his desire for healing and hope,” Clark said in an email. “[What drew me in was] Frank’s passion and ability to not only understand kids and their hurts, but the way to hope and healing.”
Clark said he thinks “The Code of Silence” will resonate with listeners because almost everyone can recall an instance of bullying behavior, either in their own life or around them. He hopes the song will remind people it’s never too late to make amends.
Case in point is “Howard Gray,” the true story of Domann’s remorse about laughing at a vulnerable junior high classmate.
After writing the song, Domann decided to find out what happened to the real Howard. After corresponding by letter, the two eventually met in person and now speak regularly.
“He’s not had an easy life. He’s illiterate because he quit school as a result of those kind of experiences,” Domann said. “He’s nonverbal and his self-esteem is low. He still carries that burden from years ago, but this song is something that brings him a lot of hope and he’s very excited about it.”
Hearing “Howard Gray” for the first time, DiLallo came to a similar realization about his own bullying behavior toward a former classmate.
“It actually touched me to the core,” DiLallo said. “I cried, it hit me that deeply.”
Domann said he hopes listeners gain empathy, compassion and hope from his song.
“I hope people not only feel empathy, but put that into action and do something to make sure someone knows they care,” Domann said. “Even if I can’t stop what’s going on, to have the courage to say something nice: ‘Hello, I’m sorry that happened to you. Do you want to talk about it?’ Out of that comes hope for everybody and without hope, we just can’t live.”
Social media has added a new element to age-old bullying behaviors, Domann said.
“It can be a real blessing but it can also be an avenue for more hurt,” Domann said. “I think it’s important to do exactly what Frank and others are doing and that’s to plant some good seeds where you are. I can’t do a thing about bullying going on in Cincinnati or Los Angeles, but I can maybe make some kind of positive impact on some kids and adults here and there. And that’s just got to be enough. We do what we can and we leave the rest up to spiritual forces or God.”
For more information, visit www.peace2usolutions.com.