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The panel discussion with one parent and two professors from Central Connecticut State University was scheduled at Litchfield High School to discuss the growing phenomenon of bullying. (Neither the recent bullying in Litchfield, nor the experience at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village led directly to Monday’s session.)
The event was set up by Betsy Fabbri and Lori Shuhi, president and vice president of the Student Teachers Parents Council, as part of the STPC’s programs to bring students and teachers together. Close to 30 parents and residents attended.
Dr. Katherine Hermes, a professor of history at CCSU, also spoke at the event. Dr. Hermes pointed out that she was not an expert on the phenomenon of bullying, but had joined the nationwide advocacy on the issue after the suicide of her friend, Marlene Braun.
Ms. Braun, an Army veteran and 13-year employee of the federal Bureau of Land Management, had been bullied by her boss over a difference of opinion in the maintenance of a national landmark of which she as in charge. She took her own life on Aug. 20, 2005.
The story of Ms. Braun’s death made headlines in the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Hermes has since been an advocate against workplace bullying, and has petitioned the Connecticut legislature to examine the phenomenon in its state agencies, including the Connecticut State University system, where she works.
“After 18 months of systematic bullying, this person, who had been a U.S. Army veteran, put a bullet in her brain,” she said. “Many, many people who don’t actually do it, think about it and have tremendous mental and physical health consequences.”
Dr. Hermes said that by the time her friend took her life, she had lost 30 pounds and was suffering from sleep problems.
“People would say to her, ‘Your boss is a jerk,” but we’re not talking about jerks,” she said. “We’re talking about intimidation of someone, such as telling them like a child that they’re not needed at a meeting and should sit in a hall; physical intimidation that is not quite hitting, such as backing them up against a wall. All those things are bullying.”