From Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office:
Attorney General Bill Schuette today visited Southfield’s Levey Middle School to host a special anti-bullying presentation featuring recording artist and anti-bullying advocate Keenan West. The event was offered as part of the Attorney General’s Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (CSI), a free Internet safety program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Schuette’s office presented a special anti-bullying message featuring a live musical performance by West to approximately 425 students in sixth through eighth grade at Levey Middle School. Schuette was joined by West, Principal Rita Teague, Assistant Principal Zerrick Lake, and School Board President, Darryle Buchanan.
“The prevalence of social media and smart phones means bullying today is more sophisticated and more damaging,” said Schuette. “Instead of limiting their troublemaking to the halls, bullies can harass students on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and via text message, before an even larger audience. Harassment can go viral in seconds, magnifying the damage to victims.”
“I am confident our students can make a difference for their classmates by having the courage to take a stand against bullying. Keenan West’s musical talent and energy teaches kids how to find the courage to defend and comfort their classmates, embracing a higher standard of character. We’re fortunate to include his musical talent in Michigan CSI programming all year long.”
Michigan CSI includes customized presentations for students in kindergarten through eighth grade that are offered by trained professionals from the Attorney General’s Office. The program addresses consequences associated with the increased prevalence of cyberbullying and ‘sexting’ (the transfer of sexually explicit photos via cell phones), in addition to providing important safety tips about avoiding Internet predators. According to the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in six U.S. high school students were bullied through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting in the previous year.
A music video created by Ohio vocalist and anti-bullying advocate Keenan West, entitled “Never Ever,” is used in Michigan CSI presentations for middle school students. At today’s program, West performed his song live at Levey Middle School and challenged students to “Find The Courage” to take a stand against bullies.
“Music reaches kids at their level more than most other mediums,” said West. “But I find that most of the bullying-related music and videos focus on raising awareness of the negative effects of bullying. While it’s important to understand how devastating bullying actions can be, my goal is to use my music and the ‘Never Ever’ video to reach the group of kids that has the most chance of creating positive change. Bullying will end when the overwhelming majority of bystanders have the courage to step in and take action.”
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Attorney General Schuette and Keenan West to bring this vitally important information to our students,” said Southfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson. “Sometimes hearing the message through a near-peer or the medium of music helps empower students to take a stand and be courageous.”
On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Schuette and West presented about Michigan CSI at the Michigan Bullying Prevention Summit hosted by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association held at the Lansing Center. Schuette and West also brought their special Michigan CSI presentation to students at Flint’s Southwestern Classical Academy on the same day.
Michigan CSI has been presented to more than 884,000 students throughout Michigan since its inception in the fall of 2007. Michigan CSI presentations include age-appropriate information about safe and responsible Internet use and communicate valuable lessons through discussions about Internet safety videos. Topics covered include:
- How to recognize common Internet predator grooming techniques;
- Appropriate responses to cyberbullying and encouragement to be kind online;
- The dangers of revealing personal information through the Internet or social networking websites;
- The “three keeps”: Keep safe by not sharing personal information, keep away from Internet strangers, and keep telling parents or a trusted adult about anything that makes you uncomfortable;
- The consequences of sharing inappropriate material via cell phones (‘sexting’) or on social networking websites; and,
- A sample Online Safety Contract that can be discussed with parents or guardians.
Schuette noted that Michigan CSI also offers the option of a free community seminar for parents, teachers, and community leaders. The seminar covers the following topics:
1) Accessing the Michigan Sex Offender Registry;
2) The impact of digital footprints;
3) The risk of sharing photos with embedded location information;
4) The dangers and legal ramifications of “sexting”; and,
5) Recognizing the warning signs of cyberbullying and developing a plan of action to combat it.
The Michigan CSI website also includes a community seminar calendar with information about currently scheduled events.
For more information about Michigan CSI or to register for a free seminar in your school or community, visit www.michigan.gov/csi, send an email to AGCSI@michigan.gov, or call the program staff toll-free, 1-877-765-8388.
Keenan West is a recording artist from Cincinnati, Ohio who got his start singing in church at nine years old. He attended The University of Cincinnati and coached high school basketball for five years. He left coaching to further his career in music. In addition to singing for various choirs and music groups, he now sings professionally at private events. Keenan has recorded his own EP that can be found on iTunes and is featured on many other artists’ recordings.
In addition to his work with the Michigan Attorney General’s CSI Program, West has partnered with several anti-bullying organizations including Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center and the Violence Free Coalition of Warren County. Keenan now performs and speaks to elementary, junior high, and high school students across the country about the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect no matter what their differences and helping them find the courage to stand up for kids being bullied.
Keenan West’s anti-bullying song and video, entitled “Never Ever,” can be viewed and downloaded digitally from his website, www.keenanwest.com.