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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Breaking down bullying
Author Doug Wilhelm visits two middle schools to share his book about an age-old schoolyard problem.
By MICHELE MILLER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007
Doug Wilhelm, author of The Revealers, a youth novel about bullying, reads from his book as he visits students at Hudson Middle School recently.
[Zach Boyden-Holmes | Times]
At 6 feet 10, Doug Wilhelm doesn't look like the kind of guy you'd really want to pick on.
But that wasn't the case back in 1964 when Wilhelm was in junior high and the greasers, with their black leather jackets and slicked-back hair, were a group you steered clear of.
Especially that one kid. The kid who got a kick out of making your life miserable most every day. The kid whose name you remember all these years later now that your hair is white and the benefits of hindsight and creativity have you sharing your story with thousands of students throughout the country.
Well, at least part of your story.
These days, a derivative of "that kid" is a fictional character named "Richie" in a book Wilhelm wrote for young adults called The Revealers. The book, one of last year's Sunshine State Readers, revolves around three main characters and their struggles with the middle school bullying culture.
The Revealers is being hailed by many as a book that can empower readers during their middle school journey - from the "target" who might learn a better way to cope;to the bully, who might learn something about empathy;to the "bystander," who all too often goes along with the peer pressure and makes things worse.
So far, Wilhelm has sold about 75,000 copies of his book.
"Well, it's good," he said. "But it's not Harry Potter."
Still, he is enjoying a grass roots support that started in his home state of Vermont. That's where he did a lot of his research, tapping adolescents who gave him some insight into what's going on in their world - including the new cyber-bully revolution.
As a proactive approach to character and antibullying education, every student at Hudson and Weightman Middle read The Revealers before Wilhelm's recent visits.
"We wanted to implement a schoolwide read," said Weightman assistant principal Kirsten Joyer, who as a youngster was a target of middle and high school bullies and was a force behind the "One Book/One Community" push. "We wanted something that was relevant and pertinent to our students."
"The book was very catching," said David Becker, an eighth-grader at Weightman Middle who, because of an essay he wrote, had the opportunity to have lunch with the author and 14 other students. "Although it's fiction, it's very realistic. I see it (bullying) here every day. There's leaders and there's followers. Different cliques. It's amazing how people categorize themselves."
"I think it was good. It kind of relates to my life," said Cody Edwards, 13, as he waited in line to have Wilhelm sign his book at Hudson Middle. "I get picked on. Some of my friends get picked on. I just deal with it. It's part of life."
That shouldn't be the case, said Hudson Middle principal Steve Van Gorden, adding that reading The Revealers is just the beginning at his school.
As part of the school's antibullying campaign, 40 sixth-grade students recently attended a Unity Day workshop held at Hudson. It is hoped they will go on to spread the message and leadership skills learned there.
"We're talking abut changing a culture, and that doesn't happen overnight," said Van Gorden. "It's a long process, and it's going to involve lots of people. But I think it can turn the campus upside down by the time these kids get to eighth grade."
To learn more
For more on Doug Wilhelm and his book The Revealers, go to www.the-revealers.com/.
Want some advice on how to deal with bullying? Check out the Weightman Middle School Web site, tewms.pasco.k12.fl.us, and scroll down to the "Bullying Tips" link.