Jackson Ornstein, 16, knows what it's like to be bullied. Throughout sixth grade at Lindero Canyon Middle School in 2008, the Agoura Hills resident says he was relentlessly taunted by two fellow students.
It is because of his experiences and a subsequent starring role in an anti-bullying film–The Invisible Ferrari–that the youth was selected to make the keynote address at this year's Utah Council for Crime Prevention’s (UCCP) 13th Annual Power of Prevention conference on Feb. 1.
"It was a tremendous honor to be asked to speak," said Jackson, who offered strategies to help individuals and families facilitate bullying prevention, while spreading anti-bullying messages and awareness in their own communities.
“It was such a proud and emotional moment for me to see my son stand up in front of his peers and talk about what he went through," said Jackson's mother, Kristi. "Listening to him talk, I heard things he hadn’t shared with me before because it was too hard for him to discuss."
At the conference, Jackson gave personal accounts as a victim of bullying before the crowd of 700 people.
"I was tall and skinny, which I guess is why they picked on me, and I didn't know how to defend myself," Ornstein later told Patch.
He recalls being both physically and emotionally threatened. "They would pin me up against the wall, threaten to beat me up. Going to school was a real challenge, and I felt that the teachers didn't care," he said of the ordeal.
He recounts one instance in which his clothes were taken during physical education, so he had nothing to change into for class.
After failed attempts to get the school to take action against the bullies, according to Kristi, she sent Jackson to the private Westmark School in Encino, where he is currently thriving.
Mary Schillinger, assistant superintendent of education for LVUSD, told Patch that she is not permitted to comment on this or any specific cases but stressed that several new anti-bullying programs have been established throughout the district.
At the Dec. 17 school board meeting, principals from Lindero Canyon, Agoura and Calabasas high schools cited their respective anti-bullying models, which include good behavior reinforcement, focus groups and P.S.A.'s.
According to Schillinger, in addition to mandated school board policy, which is continuously being updated, each school chooses its own method of dealing with the issue.
In 2012, A.E. Wright Middle School adopted the Olweus Bully Intervention Program, for which it has become a model school, Schillenger said.
Another program recently introduced, CHAMPS – Classwide Positive Behavior Support (PBS), is now being implemented by all of the schools in the district, according to Schilliger.
"Like Olweuss, CHAMPS takes a positive approach to dealing with bullying, both for students and teachers," she said.
Schillinger still recommends that if a student is being bullied, he/she should immediately report the situation to a teacher and/or principal.
As for Jackson, he has appeared in several student films and recently got the lead in his school's musical. He hopes to pursue a career as an actor.