Young people have power — the power to change a bad situation, the power to change their school’s culture, the power to change the world, if they take action.
That was part of the message delivered to Hays High School freshmen Wednesday and today by Christine Brungardt as Jana’s Campaign offered the students training in bystander intervention.
Brungardt and her husband, Curt, started the foundation in honor of their daughter, Jana Mackey, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend July 8, 2008, in Lawrence when she was 25.
The University of Kansas law student was an advocate for women’s rights and volunteered to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Since the organization’s founding, the Brungardts and their staff have made presentations to approximately 34,000 students in 383 schools across eight states, Brungardt said.
And much of what they do starts in the school where Mackey graduated from.
“Hays High School has been so great. We try every program out on them, and many of them have had us come back and do it multiple times,” Brungardt said.
The fact Mackey sat in the same classrooms and walked the same halls makes students sit up and pay attention, said Sue Ann Tebo, family and consumer science teacher.
Tebo was the faculty coordinator for the training, with help from sophomores Jada Kaiser and Kenna Pfannenstiel.
“My whole goal is to have them trained through their entire high school career, so when they do see something happening, hopefully they know they can do something about it and they’ll know how to safely intervene,” Tebo said.
Those skills can be used not only in dating and personal relationships, the students were told, but any time they see bullying happen in school, at events or in the community.
Jana’s Campaign Program Specialist Kaiti Dinges went over the “Three Ds” with students — be direct, distract and delegate — as methods of being an effective or active bystander to diffuse a situation.
She discussed with the students through a presentation and later through exercise how to put those principles into action. Students can be direct by telling someone being abusive that it’s not cool or it makes them uncomfortable. They can distract by stepping in the situation and changing the topic, or they can delegate by asking for help from friends or adults.
“We’re here to ask you to do what most people don’t do,” Brungardt told the students. “Be an active bystander. Do something.”
But she and Dinges also stressed to the students to keep their own safety in mind.
“No matter what you do though, if you don’t think the situation feels safe, you think you might get hurt, don’t intervene. You have to keep yourself safe first,” Dinges said.
Overall, the goal of the training is to encourage the students to put an end to violence and abusive relationships. Brungardt told the students they can make that happen.
“You’ve got four years ahead of you. You can absolutely change the culture of an organization in that much time,” she said. “So if collectively you say, ‘This is stopping on our watch. This will not happen at Hays High School,’ by the time you’re seniors, you can get that done if enough of you decide to do it.”