The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 12, 2012

MSU's Walter Roberts Jr. earns PFLAG award

MANKATO — When you spend a career focused on bullying and seeing its devastating effects on young people, it can be frustrating.

“I’ve often asked myself, ‘Is anybody really listening? Does anybody really care?’” said Walter Roberts Jr., a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University. “And I think the answer is, yes, people are listening more than they ever have, and, yes, people do care.”

One organization that certainly does care — not only about bullying, but about Roberts’ hand in combating it — is the Twin Cities chapter of PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. The organization has given Roberts the Outstanding Educator Award, citing him as a pioneer in bullying prevention, to be presented at a conference Jan. 20.

From a PFLAG release about the award: “Long before others were talking about the seriousness of bullying in schools, Roberts was in the field addressing the issue. His research, consulting and advocacy have had a profound impact on bringing national visibility to bullying and to the collective responsibility that all of society (including schools, parents, students and bystanders) shares to prevent harassment and violence in schools.”

Raised in the South during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Roberts said he’s seen firsthand what bias, prejudice and discrimination does to people. It’s been his life’s work to fight against it, and it means a lot that PFLAG has recognized his work.

“I’m honored. I’m tremendously honored,” he said.

Roberts began his career teaching in 1978 before becoming a school counselor. He moved into higher education in 1993. He has extensive public policy experience in mental health and school safety issues, and he’s a published author, including the best-seller “Bullying from Both Sides.”

He consults nationwide with teachers, administrators, mental health professionals, parents and communities about bullying. And his primary research has been in violence reduction in school settings.

“A tireless advocate for children, Roberts testifies regularly before local, state and national legislative bodies in support of policies and laws that will increase school safety,” the release stated.

The awards banquet will be held Jan. 20 at Hamline University in St. Paul as part of a first-of-its-kind forum in Minnesota that will help teachers, social workers, administrators and parents of GLBT individuals to create a safe school environment.

The day-long conference, “Cultivating Respect: Safe Schools for All Students,” will tackle GLBT bullying in schools.

Roberts will be conducting a workshop at Martin County West during the conference, but he plans to attend the awards banquet.

Other award winners include Tammy Aaberg, Outstanding Parent Award; AMAZE, Outstanding Organization Award; and the Blake Justice League, Outstanding Student-led Organization Award.

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