Ross receives Kohl’s Cares scholarship

Jake Ross of Forest Lake won a $1,000 Kohl’s scholarship for his volunteer work to prevent bullying.

Jake Ross of Forest Lake won a $1,000 Kohl’s scholarship for his volunteer work to prevent bullying.

Forest Lake’s Jake Ross, 11, received a $1,000 scholarship for making a positive impact in his community through volunteering.

The Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program chose Ross from more than 35,000 applicants based on initiative, leadership, generosity and project outcome. Nearly 200 youth volunteers were awarded $1,000 scholarships and qualified for $10,000 national scholarships. Since the program began in 2001, Kohl’s has awarded 19,000 winners with $3.9 million in scholarships and prizes.

After repeatedly being bullied in school, and in an effort to make sure other children don’t suffer similar abuse, Ross advocated for new legislation. The fifth-grade student testified at three Minnesota State Capitol legislative hearings to urge passage of the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act,” a comprehensive anti-bullying bill. He gave his personal testimony in February at the House Education Policy Committee hearing, in March at the Senate Education Committee hearing, and in May at the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

After nine committee hearings, the bill passed in the House but died in the Senate. Supporters plan to reintroduce the bill at the capitol when the session resumes in February 2014.

To read the bill, go online to www.senate.mn and enter 783 in the “get bill info” box.

Ross also wrote a guest column for the April 18 issue of the Forest Lake Times. During second grade, Ross wrote, he was hit and pushed around, his belongings were stolen and he received verbal threats. Ross was attending a local school at the time.

After second grade he moved to Scandia Elementary (part of Forest Lake District 831), which uses the Olweus Program to prevent bullying.

The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, he wrote, would give Minnesota one of the strongest anti-bullying school laws in the U.S.

“I want to help protect students in Minnesota from bullying because I know what it’s like, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone,” he wrote.

In May, Ross was named “Up-Stander of the Week” by The Bully Project, a national bullying prevention organization.

Jake Ross testifying before the Senate Education Committee on March 5, 2013.

Jake Ross testifying before the Senate Education Committee on March 5, 2013.

Jake’s story: An extract from his testimony to legislative committees

When I was 7 years old and in second grade, I was the victim of on-going bullying by two students at the elementary school I then attended.

I was hit repeatedly in the hallways and other places when my teacher wasn’t looking. The boys did this because they thought it was funny.

These same boys pushed me around every day after school. They took my backpack and other belongings.

On Feb. 2, 2010, while I was eating lunch at our assigned classroom table in the cafeteria, one of the bullying students stood up at the lunch table and said very loudly, “Who’s going to help me beat up Jake today?”

Following lunch, outside at recess, I was cornered and attacked, pushed to the ground up to 20 times. I tried to get away but could not. When the recess whistle finally blew and everyone went inside, the student who attacked me yelled repeatedly, “I’m going to kill you if you tell anyone!  I’m going to kill you tomorrow!”

The day after I was attacked, with my mom’s encouragement, I switched to the other table to eat lunch, the table where the girls ate. The boy who had attacked me said very loudly to everyone, “Look—Jake’s a girl!”

Going to school was hard for me because I didn’t know what would happen. My mom reported these things to the school officials.  The only consequence was the two boys who admitted hurting  me repeatedly had to apologize. No other school consequences occurred, even though the bullying continued.

My mom asked the school director to move the boys to a different cafeteria table. The director told my mom, “No. We can’t move these boys to another place at lunch, because what about those kids they would then sit by?” I was forced to sit by the boys who bullied me every day.

My mom asked to see the school’s policy and procedures for bullying.  After about 10 minutes of searching, the director found the school’s written bullying policy, a couple-sentence statement. The policy did not list any procedures for what to do if bullying occurs.  My mom was told, “There are no procedures, no list of consequences for bullying here.”

She asked, “How will you ensure a safe learning environment for our son?”  The answer was, “I can’t help you. I can’t tell you. Not everyone shares the same values as you.”

My mom filled out harassment and violence reporting forms for several incidents, but the school administration did not investigate. My parents took me and my younger sister out of this school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Jake Ross

    Thank You very much, The Forest Lake Times and Mary Bailey, for printing this article. I feel that this anti-bullying Bill is very important to the State of Minnesota because no kids should have to be bullied. This anti-bullying Bill will protect Minnesota students from bullying, which I know is very painful.
    I encourage everyone to contact their legislators and encourage them to vote in favor of this very important Bill.
    Thank You for your Support,
    Jake Ross
    (age 11)

  • Jake Ross

    This message is from Melanie Ross (Jake Ross’ mom) :

    I would also like to give a Big Thank You to : Mary Bailey and The Forest Lake Times, for putting this article in our community’s newspaper. I am very proud of my son for speaking out about the bullying he painfully endured at the school he went to when he was 7 years old. Those in charge of running this school did not understand the issue of bullying and the severe social, emotional, mental, and physical consequences such peer abuse has. The school leadership did not response appropriately to the reports of bullying I made over the course of this 2009 – 2010 school year. When I asked the School Director, “How will you ensure a safe learning environment for my son ?” His answer was, “I can’t help you. I can’t tell you. Not everyone shares the same values as you.”
    . . . And so my sweet, kind, caring, little boy, who loved learning, had to face on-going hitting, name-calling, stealing of his belongings, verbal threats, intimidation, and even severe attack on the playground, during his days in 2nd grade at this school . . . this was totally inexcusable.

    Now, 3 years later, my son is an advocate for bullying prevention. He has been given the opportunity to tell his personal story of being the victim of severe bullying – so that the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” will pass. This comprehensive anti-bullying bill, when passed will take Minnesota from having one of the weakest anti-bullying policies – to having the strongest anti-bullying laws. According to the 2010 Minnesota Student Health Survey, 13 % of students were bullied once-a-week or more (this equates to over 100,000 students in MN being the victim of peer abuse on a regular basis). This should not be happening in our Great State !

    The MN legislative session starts up again in February, 2014. This anti-bullying bill picks up right where it left off at the close of session from May, 2013. The bill has passed through all House committees and the House Floor vote. It needs to pass through one Senate committee, then it will be back on the Senate Floor for vote. I encourage all MN residents to contact your legislators, Senators are the first priority – and encourage them to vote “yes” for the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act”. Our children and youth need to be safe at school – this should be a “yes” for all legislators, regardless of their political party . . .

    To find out who your state legislators are, go to :
    http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts

    The heart of this anti-bullying Bill is about protecting our State’s most precious resource : Our Children.

    I Wish You Peace,
    Melanie Ross
    (Jake Ross’ mom)

up arrow