Meadville Tribune

Local News

April 7, 2014

Gump sets sights on bullying issue in schools as safety officer

MEADVILLE — “If we do it together, we can change the world” is the message Sgt. Craig Gump, Meadville Police Department’s school safety officer, is delivering to students attending elementary schools throughout the Crawford Central School District attendance area.

When he’s not overseeing the crossing guards and safety patrol members stationed at intersections throughout Meadville whenever school is in session, Gump is spending as much time as possible in elementary classrooms. The list of participating schools includes Crawford Central’s First District, Second District, Neason Hill, West End and Cochranton elementary schools as well as Seton Catholic School in Meadville.

Since March, he’s been focusing attention on bullying — both in person and online.

For this strapping 24-year veteran of Meadville police department, it’s personal.

During a recent stop at Second District to talk about bullying to the school’s fifth- and sixth-graders, Gump recalled what happened when his family moved from Ohio to Meadville when he was a first-grader. “I was not happy,” he said, speaking in a tone of voice leaving no doubt that he was extremely not happy.

The shy newbie who didn’t talk much had an especially hard time outdoors during recess.

For three endless weeks, Gump recalled, a group of eight boys would sneak around him when no one was watching and push him. Then one day, “I got mad,” he said. “A guy pushed me — and I pushed him down.”

This time, a teacher was watching. Of course, Gump was the one hauled to the principal’s office.

That night, a miserable first-grader reviewed his life: “Kids are mean, my teacher thinks I’m trouble and the principal hates me,” he thought. “I don’t want to go to school.”

Dropping out wasn’t an option, but his teacher noticed something was wrong and asked about it. “I said what had been happening — and she took care of it,” he recalled.

That experience taught him to speak up, Gump continued. “I learned that if I’m brave enough to stand up for myself, others will stand up with me,” he continued. “And I discovered that I can protect somebody,” he added. “That may be why I’m a cop today.”

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