Teen starts anti-bullying club and hopes to pass anti-bullying legislation
By Dara Deines
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
What started as a paper for a class quickly turned into a reason to start a club, start writing a bill and make a change in the local schools.
Caitlin Handran, a sophomore at Dawson County High School, has started a new club called Change a Life. The club is an anti-bullying club where students come once a week during lunch and discuss different issues they hear about during school.
The club is advised by Heather Handran, Caitlin’s mother, and DCHS English teacher Jordan Viegut visits occasionally.
The club has applied for a place in the school’s central funding, where any money they raise through fundraisers would be kept. The Handrans said school officials have been supportive.
With the club started and the school year coming to a close, Caitlin’s focus this summer is preparing an anti-bullying bill before November.
An anti-bullying bill would make it mandatory for schools to uphold their bullying and hazing policies.
It would also allow students to seek help within the school when what is happening outside affects their learning environment.
As she started the research for the bill she saw that Montana was the only state with no anti-bullying laws in place. This information only fueled the fire to keep going forward.
“Montana has the fourth highest suicide rate in the country and is the only state with no anti-bullying law,” Caitlin said, “This isn’t just a coincidence.”
“There needs to be a better atmosphere. It’s okay to tell, it’s fine to approach a bully and confront the situation,” Heather said. “They just need someone to go to who will listen to them.”
Both Caitlin and Heather have stories of many local instances of bullying they know of personally. The bullying ranges from name calling to one young adult being brought to the point of suicide.
They have not only heard of face-to-face attacks but also cyber bullying such as a cowboys versus preps Facebook fight.
Something that is taking more time than she would have thought is writing out all the definitions for bullying. There are so many definitions she has to include every single one.
“We can’t get rid of bullying, that’s a dream, but we can at least learn to respect each other,” Caitlin said.
She has put a lot of work into the bill thus far, but there is still a long way to go.
“Instead of reading Eragon at the pool this summer, I guess I will be writing a law,” she said.
Reach Dara Deines at firstname.lastname@example.org.