Area man specializes in conflict resolution His latest workshop on bullying profiled on ‘20/20’
Area man specializes in conflict resolution
His latest workshop
on bullying profiled
George Anthony of Middletown poses for a photo with John Stossel during preparations for Stossel’s recent TV special on bullying and school violence.
George Anthony has made it his life’s work to foster communication and end conflicts wherever it is he finds them.
Anthony, a Middletown resident, is employed as a conflict-resolution specialist serving schools in Brooklyn and Staten Island, N.Y. The programs he has designed for his students there have been profiled in many places, including ABC news. Anthony has also been featured on CNN for his work with the Seeds of Peace program, which brings Israeli and Palestinian teens together to talk about the situations they face at home.
His latest workshop for his students at Susan Wagner High School on Staten Island is titled "Bullying: The Student, the School, the Community, and the Holocaust." His work recently was profiled on an hourlong 20/20 special called "The In Crowd and Social Cruelty."
With the problem of school violence commanding national attention after incidents such as the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., Anthony said people have started to realize the impact bullying has on children.
Conflict-resolution specialist George Anthony, a Middle-town resident, was recently profiled on a 20/20 TV special hosted by John Stossel for programs he developed to combat bullying and school violence. FARRAH MAFFAI
"It can no longer a boys-will-be-boys or a kids-will-be-kids mentality," he said.
"In my program students are taught from day one to stand up for those who stand alone," said Anthony.
To combat violence and bullying in schools, his program trains students to be conflict-resolution specialists, teaching them leadership and peer-mediation skills.
Through the program, Anthony develops a network he describes as a "safety net" for schools, with students manning a mediation center, on call to diffuse conflicts and violence before they happen.
"We try to give the kids who might feel that they can’t speak out a voice so they don’t turn to violence to solve their problems," said Anthony.
"Kids need to learn early that words have an effect. Words can hurt, but words can also save them. Once they start to see that their words can make a difference, they believe in themselves.
"A lot of times it just takes that one person to recognize that one kid who has been bullied, so he can say, maybe I’m not so alone in this. Somebody else recognizes what I’m going through.
"Every class has that one kid who gets picked on. It’s not just the kids harassing him that participate in that. There is always a group that follows along and a group that looks the other way."
Anthony’s program promotes the theory that there are no "innocent bystanders" where school violence is concerned. By using the Holocaust as an example, the program stresses what can happen when others stand by or turn their heads away from violence in their midst.
"I ask them to imagine what would have happened if more people stood up and said something about what was happening then ... how things might be different now," said Anthony, who has been a guest lecturer at the Anne Frank Center in Amsterdam.
"A lot of times there are kids who want to help, but they don’t know how. We give them the tools to confront the things they see around them, to do something about it," he said.
"We teach the kids to realize that a choice always exists between words and violence.
"When they see that their words can work, that they have had an impact, they get so excited. They come in and say, ‘I really did something — I stopped a fight, I stood up for someone.’ "
A former psychology teacher, Anthony went on to receive training as a conflict-resolution specialist at Columbia University in New York City, after the 1989 Yusef Hawkins incident, in which a young black man was killed in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn’s Benson-hurst section.
With racial tensions mounting in his school, Anthony said that he wanted to find a way to get the students to see past the labels, "the lines they had drawn along skin color and neighborhood."
After seeing the success his programs had had in schools, Anthony offered his services to an international organization dedicated to bringing peace to the Middle East.
While watching a news report on the Seeds of Peace program and its efforts to create a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens, Anthony thought that his conflict-resolution program could help give them the skills they needed to begin talking and decided to contact them.
"We get the kids to see past labels," said Anthony. "Even though they may have been taught that this person is my enemy from day one, by getting them to see each other as individuals, things open up."
Anthony said that when he first arrived at the Seeds of Peace camp in Maine to meet the students, many of them told him they had come to "win the argument" and prove that they were in the right.
"We get them to listen to what the other side has to say, whether they agree or not," he explained.