WEST SENECA, NY - A bunch of state lawmakers will be in town Tuesday night to join a local Boy Scout who's getting a big national honor. It's all thanks to his work to keep New Yorkers safe from bullying.
In the age of Facebook, texting and twitter, bullying doesn't stop at the schoolhouse door. The state took steps against that just a few months ago when Governor Cuomo signed a law to crack down on cyberbullying.
And some of the language in that bill came from Boy Scout Troop 616's Christopher LaRussa, a seventh grader at West Seneca East Middle School. He came up with an idea that caught the attention of state lawmakers and even President Obama.
"The proposal was to stop bullying; how to do that was to role-play with the social work department and the physical education department," Christopher said. "And they would think of something to role play; they would do this during gym class."
Chris says his idea came from being bullied himself- and the role-playing with his parents that helped turn that bully into a friend. LaRussa didn't win when he submitted the idea to a national contest- but he did get calls from Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, Senator Tim Kennedy, Senator Mark Grisanti and Senator Michael Ranzenhofer.
"What they said is I would just like to meet with you and talk about your proposal," Chris said.
Chris joined Assemblyman Kearns to push for passage of the bill earlier this year. And his idea of social workers and phys-ed staff teaming up to teach how to identify bullying inspired changes to the law that Governor Cuomo eventually signed.
"And I'm glad that they heard my voice about this," Chris said, "because this is just amazing that the politicians heard a voice. And I think everyone out there who's listening can do something like that too."
And as for his advice for anyone who needs help standing up to a bully-
"I would say if you can't handle it, tell and adult," he said. "Use your words, don't use your fists."
Chris will be getting one of the Boy Scouts' prestigious National Meritorious Awards Tuesday at West Seneca East High School, joined by Assemblyman Kearns and more of our representatives to Albany. It's awarded for "outstanding and unusual acts that demonstrate and reflect Scouting ideals."