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John Suthers's anti-bullying event gives Chatfield students inside look at modern media

john suthers head shot cropped.JPG
John Suthers.
Yesterday, my seventeen-year-old daughters, Lora and Ellie, helped sing the "Happy Birthday" song used at Red Robin restaurants to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. And no, I'm not kidding. Suthers was the star attraction at a Monday press event at Chatfield High School intended to boost the anti-bullying program Safe2Tell. But Lora and Ellie, who are Chatfield seniors, wound up playing supporting roles.

The locale wasn't chosen at random. Safe2Tell was launched following the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, but staging the event there might have seemed exploitative. Chatfield, though, is so close to Columbine that students from the latter school finished out the 1999 school year there. Moreover, it's a feeder institution for Deer Creek Middle School, the setting for a February shooting, and a relatively short drive from Platte Canyon High School, where student Emily Keyes was slain in 2006. Keyes's father was among the invited guests at yesterday's gathering.

Chatfield students were on hand, too -- but mainly those from student government, who could be relied upon to treat the session with seriousness. Hence, my daughters' attendance -- Lora's the vice president of Chatfield's student body, while Ellie is a senior alliance representative. They're also freshman mentors, and they'd met Susan Payne, the director of Safe2Tell, during a previous presentation at Chatfield. It was natural, then, that when it came time for the media to chat with students about the issue of bullying on campus, and the necessity of a program to deal with it, they'd be among the first subjects chosen.

chatfield high school from fox 31 coverage.JPG
Chatfield High School, in Fox 31 coverage.
They wound up being interviewed by reporters from Fox 31 and the Denver Post, and while neither of them wound up on the editing-room floor, they were surprised by how little material from what they describe as extended conversations made it into the final cut.

In the Post piece, for instance, they're both named, but only one quote and the term "eye-opening" appear in the published article. (Kudos, though, to reporter Kyle Glazier for spelling Lora's name correctly. Even some of her relatives haven't quite figured it out yet -- and she's seventeen.) On Fox, meanwhile, Ellie is heard briefly near the start of the package, while Lora turns up at the end. But neither is identified by an on-screen graphic, perhaps because they're identical twins, and no one could remember which was which.

They were also surprised that the report was narrated by reporter Kim Posey, not the person who chatted with them earlier in the day. Posey set up the piece during last night's 9 p.m. broadcast by way of a live shot from Chatfield's campus, a very attractive facility. So why, Ellie wondered, did the crew set Posey up in front of two dumpsters?

This mystery may never be solved. But in other respects, the event did just what organizers no doubt hoped, focusing attention on a program that seems timelier than ever as a result of recent suicides by gay teens who'd reportedly been bullied. And when Suthers mentioned that yesterday was his birthday, he also got serenaded by a bunch of high school kids. Too bad no one caught that on camera.

Page down to see the Fox 31 report, and to read a release about Safe2Tell from the Colorado Attorney General's office:

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