RIVERTOWNS, N.Y. - Schoolyard bullying does not take a vacation during the summer months as youngsters head off to day camps and sleepaway camps throughout Westchester County and beyond, and Hastings is taking steps to eliminate that threat.
According a study by the American Camp Association's guidelines for campers, counseling staffs have experienced varying degrees of bullying behavior, including verbal teasing and name-calling among campers.
The Westchester County Department of Health requires every camp director from a Westchester County camp to attend its annual workshop on health. The workshop was held this week in preparation for the coming summer season.
Hastings Recreation Department summer camp Director Lisa O'Reilly attended the county's half-day safety workshop where bullying was on was one the main topics of discussion.
"The workshop was very well done and gave us a chance to exchange ideas on how we deal with bullying and safety issues," O'Reilly said. "We do our own orientation with counselors -- using videos that deal with how to observe when a child may be experiencing a problem."
The American Camp Association study showed that male staffers saw verbal threatening among their boys and female staff observed gossiping, rumors, exclusion and clique behavior in their female campers. Male bullying tended to be more physical.
Summer campers may feel bullied because they are excluded from a group or teased and dominated by other campers, O'Reilly said.
"We look for children who are quiet and seem left out and for other who may be trying to control the activities," she said. "Our counselors are mostly teenagers, so they relate well to the younger kids. The important thing is for parents, counselors and campers to communicate when they see a problem."
All camps in Westchester are required to have a county permit to operate, suggesting that they have met basic guidelines. For suggestions on how to assess camp safety, based on recommendations of experts nationwide, log on to the New York State guidelines site.
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