Marzullo vows to tackle bullying, expert to speak Thursday morning

After the tragic suicide of 15-year-old Greenwich High School student Bartlomiej (Bart) Palosz on Aug. 27, Greenwich Public Schools (GPS) began an investigation into the student’s school experiences, which they have now turned over to the town’s legal department, owing to what the district described as the department’s “strong objectivity.”

According to a statement sent out by GPS on Sept. 6, “The town’s legal department has experience in conducting similar investigations for other departments in an objective and ethical fashion.”

Describing the ongoing investigation as “comprehensive and complex” and requiring a “thoughtful and thorough investigation,” the district noted that the legal department was better suited to dedicate the appropriate amount of time and dedication to the case.

Town Attorney Wayne Fox could not be reached by the Post for comment about the scope of the investigation.

While this has raised some concerns in the community about the matter not resulting in any action to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, Selectman Drew Marzullo said he has full confidence in the town attorney’s office and that the bigger issue is how the town will alter its measures on bullying — the issue that many of Bart’s family members and classmates say led him to take his own life.

In an effort to get the ball rolling, Mr. Marzullo invited Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, to provide a presentation on bullying at today’s Board of Selectmen meeting which is at 10 a.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

STOMP Out Bullying is a national organization focused on reducing and preventing bullying and cyberbullying by raising awareness and teaching effective solutions on how to respond to the issue in all its forms. According to Mr. Marzullo, Ms. Ellis is a leading expert on bullying and the selectman hopes her presentation will advance a town-wide dialogue on the issue.

“Tragedies should start discussion,” Mr. Marzullo said.

Like many others in town, Mr. Marzullo said he is anxiously awaiting the results of the investigation into Bart’s school experiences, in order to understand all of the facts and to analyze Greenwich High School’s response to Bart’s circumstances. And although the instances of bullying that Bart faced occurred at school, it is vital that the issue of bullying be addressed throughout the entire town by schools, parents, elected officials, community organizations and residents of all ages, he told the Post.

To that end, Mr. Marzullo said he invited each member of the Board of Education, members of the PTA and PTA Council, police officers and other community leaders to attend today’s presentation.

Mr. Marzullo said he hopes to use Ms. Ellis’s expertise to determine what the Board of Selectmen can do as a body of elected officials to put stronger anti-bullying measures in place. Though the town’s schools already have bullying policies, Mr. Marzullo said, he hopes Ms. Ellis’s presentation will provide insight on how to take a different, firmer approach to the issue, adding that “there’s always an opportunity to do better.”

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges the town will face in altering its bullying measures is determining what will happen to those who are doing the bullying, Mr. Marzullo said. Whether it is discipline, psychological treatment or other consequences, it’s important to address not only the victims of bullying but those who incite it.

From what can be analyzed thus far, he said, when a 15-year-old kid takes his own life in a violent way as Bart did, “something or someone failed him.” That does not mean that one person or group is responsible for all of the blame, but it does indicate that more needs to be done in the future to prevent such a tragedy, Mr. Marzullo said.

“It’s not enough to declare zero tolerance,” Mr. Marzullo said, adding that as elected officials, the Board of Selectmen must “strongly affirm our stance on bullying” by taking action.

That action, Mr. Marzullo said, necessarily involves the inclusion of the town’s private schools in addition to its public institutions, since this is “a townwide issue not a public school issue.” It also involves getting parents heavily involved, he said, because it is their responsibility to teach their children how to appropriately conduct themselves.

“Hate is a learned behavior,” Mr. Marzullo said.

Each day since Bart’s untimely death, Mr. Marzullo has received correspondence, whether it be via email, calls or texts, from community members who have their own stories of past bullying to share and suggestions for putting a stop to it. Everyone has good intentions when it comes to the issue, Mr. Marzullo said, but coming up with a solution is no simple task.

“We live in the greatest town in the world,” Mr. Marzullo said, “but we live in a very diverse town of 60,000 with extremes,” so tackling the issue of bullying will be challenging.

Nevertheless, he added, the town can help prevent future tragedies by uniting for this cause.

“It’s extremely important that the entire town speak with one voice,” Mr. Marzullo said.

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