Fake IDs: Not Just For College Anymore

published to peoplematter.com/blog

Cinco de Mayo

Spot False Identification Documents During the Hiring Process

Beyond the Bar

Cinco de Mayo is quickly approaching, and underclassmen everywhere are buying sombreros, margarita glasses and fake IDs to prepare for the Mexican party. Fake IDs run rampant on college campuses, and you might have even been guilty yourself—but there’s a new venue illegals are sneaking into: the workplace. With 11.9 million illegal aliens needing work, it’s important to know how to spot false documents during the employment eligibility verification process to save your business big ICE fines and bigger brand trouble.

Brand trouble that quick-service restaurant company, Chipotle, ran into last December. After an ICE audit of its 50 Minnesota units, it’s speculated that, of those 1,200 employees, Chipotleterminated about 350 of them due to insufficient documentation. Although company policy requires all hires to complete an I-9 form, many employees, ICE discovered, submitted counterfeit identification.

Driver’s License 

  • Holograms
    Driver’s licenses issued by the state always have the state seal or an outline of the state in a hologram on the license. Hold the license up to the light, and tilt it back and forth; you should see a mirror-like, rainbow imprint of the state. Generic holograms exist on fake IDs so be sure to check for the specific state. You can also purchase identification books that tell you what to look for on each state’s license.
  • Edges
    The edges of driver’s licenses are completely uniform. The paper used is hard to print on, and even harder to obtain. Many counterfeit licenses, therefore, are pieces of laminated paper. Sharp or rough edges are clear indicators of forged documents. Additionally, the corners of laminated papers tend to separate and curl, letting you know the license is not real.
  • Magnetic Strips
    Encoding equipment—used to scan licenses or other magnetic strips—is extremely expensive, leaving fake IDs with the appearance of magnetic strips, but not the functionality. If you have a scanner, run the ID for a quick answer to “real or fake?”


  • Paper density
    The weight of passport paper is much denser than average computer paper. Many falsified documents are laminated printouts of real passports. If the pages are printer-paper light, it’s likely you have a false document on-hand.
  • Control numbers
    The first page of United States passports has a line of code at the bottom of the page. Missing numbers from this sequence are a telltale sign that someone has tampered with the document.
  • Embossed images
    Laminate on passports have embossed security images. While these can best be seen with special equipment, they can also be detected by holding the pages up to light. Missing images pinpoint a fake passport.

Social Security Cards

  • Number format
    The standard number format for Social Security cards is XXX–XX–XXXX. If the number on the card is set up differently, it is a counterfeit card.
  • Texture
    Social Security cards are issued on banknote paper, making them heavier and rougher than printer paper. Additionally, intaglio printing—which causes raised lettering and coarse texture—is used on a front portion of each card. Run your hands along the card to get a “feel” for if a card is fake or not.
  • Planchettes
    Pink, yellow and blue disc shapes, called planchettes, are scattered all over government-issued Social Security cards. Lack of planchettes is a sure sign of a falsified document.


Using these practices will help tip-off false documents, increasing your legal compliance and decreasing your risk for steep ICE fines for unauthorized employees. Catching false documentation isn’t always possible, especially with experts who can fake the details;automated I-9 software and e-verification tools are additional tools that can help recognize false documents.
Celebrate sound hiring practices with all of your legal employees this Cinco de Mayo.

Happy hiring,
The PeopleMatter Institute

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50k I-9 Forms… Recipe for a Happy Meal?

published to peoplematter.com/blog

Recipe for a Happy Meal

Why following I-9 standards and practices is a must with a supersized staff

McDonald’s is striving to supersize its staff through a hiring kick of 50,000 full-and part-time employees on Tuesday, April 19. While the hiring binge serves up opportunity for the unemployed, Ronald has some serious prep work to do in the compliance kitchen to avoid potential fines, penalties and legal trouble.

The view from the Golden Arches

Stricter fine enforcement and increased ICE raids have put employers under the heat lamp for worker authorization. With civil and criminal penalties totaling thousands of dollars, following strict and complex requirements are a must. Manual processes only add to compliance confusion with fines for simply using the wrong color ink or making a minor correction. Furthermore, higher-than-average turnover rates, a large percentage of immigrant and hourly workers, and large numbers of under-18 workers make the service industry a PlayPlace for noncompliant practices.

Multiply those brain freezes by 50,000 and cram it into one day. Here’s what incorrect I-9s could cost you, in McDonald’s terms:

Violation Possible Penalty
In McDonald’s Terms
New hire did not provide a date next to his/her signature
$110 105 McChickens
New hire checked the wrong box indicating legal or citizenship status $1,100 394 medium vanilla shakes
Hiring manager did not allow employee to choose which document he/she provided $375 357 double cheeseburgers
Hiring manager who examined the documents is not the same person who signed the form $3,200 842 Quarter Pounders with cheese
Hiring manager assumes that an I-9 is not required for the employee $6,500 1,912 six-piece Chicken McNuggets
Missing I-9 form of a terminated employee $4,300 1,323 Happy Meals
Discriminating against an applicant because he/she is foreign $11,000 5,945 Medium Fries
Knowingly and repeatedly hiring unauthorized workers $16,000 4,445 Big Macs
Average I-9 penalty for a company $112,000 Just about
1,000 Happy Meals, 5,000 Quarter Pounders with cheese,
10,000 Big Macs,
15,000 Double Cheeseburgers and 20,000 Medium Fries

Keeping the bun rolling

An influx of 50,000 staffers leaves little wiggle room for error when it comes to properly filling out and filing forms. To alleviate the troubles of manual processes, electronic work authorization systems, like PeopleMatter HIRE’s I-9 component, increase compliance by automating complicated processes and aggregating best practices to save business time, money and legal trouble.

Now we’re lovin’ it.

Happy hiring,
The PeopleMatter Institute

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The Past, Present and Future of the I-9 Form

published to peoplematter.com/blog

Past Present Future of I-9

How e-verify can save you time and money

Charles Dickens knew a thing or two about past decisions coming back to haunt. His infamous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, was visited by his past to review his sad and lonely existence, and show where he could end up if he continued with the same behavior.

Imagine if you were revisited by every poor decision you ever made, and then shown how different your life would have been if you had tweaked your action just a tiny bit? Now, picture that you were a company CEO being audited and receiving a $112,000 fine by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official…and then you were told that the penalty could have been avoided?

Well, the scene that would play before you would be perfectly prepared I-9 forms that were documented and saved to your computer… with other copies printed out and tucked away in your compulsively organized and fire-safe file cabinet. (Of course, you would expect nothing less of yourself… Right?!)

The Past

It hasn’t always been as tough as it is today. This story began 25 years ago when President Ronald Reagan approved the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in efforts to raise employment of American citizens and authorized immigrants. The act prohibited employers from hiring illegal immigrants and placed repercussions on those who failed to comply.

In order to track employees, I-9 forms came into play and used paper documentation to verify the identity and employment eligibility of employees. While the system addressed some core needs, the immigration problem was not completely solved. In the following years the number of illegal immigrants grew rapidly.

The Present

Today there are almost four times as many illegal immigrants in the United States than there were in 1986; however, this issue has not gone unnoticed. President Obama’s speech to the nation on July 1, 2010 addressed illegal immigration and made promises to fix the issue at hand.

President Obama’s Administration implemented a system to aggressively target employers and hold them responsible for unverified employees. In Obama’s words, “if the demand for undocumented workers falls, the incentive for people to come here illegally will decline, as well.”

So far, his plan has been progressive. In 2010, ICE conducted 2,700 investigations, issued 237 violations and racked up nearly $7 million in fines. Comparatively, 500 investigations in 2008 dispensed a mere 18 violations and received a total of $675,209 in penalties. Talk about making a significant impact!

Yet to Come

Worksite reviews and audits continue with a goal to increase citizen employment and demand proper work conditions. It is prudent that all companies comply with the reform guidelines to avoid hefty consequences.

Today’s fines range from $110 to $1,100 for incorrect or missing I-9’s. An unbelievable trend shows that 50 percent of the companies that are audited receive fines; average penalties come in at $112,000.

Such significant fines should be enough to give one reason to pause and think about what needs to be avoided through proper completion of the I-9 form.


By taking a step back and assessing the situation Scrooge was able to learn to lead a happier, stress-free life…and you can too. The last thing you want to worry about while running your company is whether or not your employees are approved to work. Although the I-9 form is readily available in hard copy, it is easy to miss a step or two. Doing so could eventually end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Lucky for you, and the rest of us that are shivering at the prospect of an ICE raid, PeopleMatter automated the I-9 process to tackle the obstacles for you. Our computer-generated system offers a reduced-risk, efficient, and hassle-free platform for you to verify your potential employees.

Change your “Yet to Come” and get started with your electronic I-9 today.

Happy verifying,
The PeopleMatter Institute

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Running with Great Customer Service

published to peoplematter.com/blog

Copper River Bridge Run

Why a Cooper River Bridge Runner would provide great customer service

Every spring tens of thousands of people flock to Charleston, SC for the annual Cooper River Bridge run. This year marked the 34th anniversary of the 10k as 40,000 people pushed off at the sound of the gun to challenge the iconic bridge. While the city marveled at the more-than-sizable turnout, we at PeopleMatter (never letting work slip our dedicated minds) couldn’t help but think that the runners embodied the attitude of an idealistic customer service representative.


Unless you’re an Olympic runner or a seasoned marathon participator, a 10k is (literally) no walk in the park. Participators need to be up to the challenge in order to face the bridge ahead of them.

Much like the ambitious runner, customer service representatives need to face the challenges of the workplace. Dealing with people is no easy task. Great customer service employees go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction and repeated business.

Commitment to people

Running is often thought of as an interpersonal sport where the goal is personal improvement. Despite the “every man for himself” mentality, you’ll often hear shouts of encouragement to “keep on” or “don’t give up.” Individuals competing against themselves tend to develop a bond, supporting each other.

Good employees have this same “pack mentality.” They are in the business of making people happy – the customers, co-workers, even the boss. The employee is essentially the face of the company and has potential to be the determining factor on whether customers return or not. Building relationships within the company allows for teamwork. When the worker is fully committed to a good work environment and customer satisfaction people leave happy and wanting to come back for more…which in turn benefits the company.

Positive attitude amidst adversity

Cramps, thirst and pain are just a few of the things that can interfere with a smooth race. In order to persevere a runner must remain positive.

Customer service representatives deal with their fair share of hurdles, too. Constantly working with people can be taxing with the influx of hundreds of different personalities. One unpleasant customer has the ability to ruin an entire day. Persisting through the unhappy customers by remaining positive and treating each customer as if they are the “first of the day” is a long-term strategy that pays off. An unbreakable optimism that allows an employee to remain calm, cool, and collected is key to the success of any customer service business.


Applying desirable personality traits to any situation results in success. Many circumstances call for putting your “best foot forward” in order to succeed. There must be some idiom out there that deals with learning lessons in the least expected ways. For us it was from the 40,000 runners and walkers on Saturday morning. Their 10k display of self-motivation, commitment, and optimism provided a platform for us to see how their runner-istic values can and should be applied in the workplace.

PeopleMatter has designed an applicant tracking system (ATS) run by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) structure that is intended to “read between the lines” of an application. Pre-hiring screening sorts through the muck of the standard application and interview process by providing assessments that can tell employers what the candidate has done, what they can do, and what they want to do…so as to provide you with the perfect “runner”.

As the participants were crossing the finish line with sighs of relief, arms raised in triumph, and hoots and hollers from the thousands of onlookers, we thought to ourselves, “what a happy place the service industry would be if everyday ran like the Cooper River Bridge Run”…pun intended.

Happy running,
The PeopleMatter Institute

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Lessons of My Brothers: Lesson #1

published on hercampus.com/umassamherst

When girls hear that I have three brothers they either say, “aw I wish I had a brother” in a longing tone or “oh man, how do you like that?” in a very concerned and cautious voice. How am I supposed to reply to either of these questions? I have never known anything else. However, being the only girl, and one of the middle children to boot, I have learned some very valuable lessons over the years.

Lesson 1: Wishful thinking does not mean those wishes come true

When I was three years old all I wanted was a little sister. I had two older brothers who exuded every possible bit of masculinity. They played sports in the yard and they wrestled in their bedroom, they wore baseball caps and got dirty whenever possible. Basically, they were uninterested whenever I brought out my Barbies and Baby Dolls. Mark, two years my senior, and Andy having six years on me, were wonderful brothers to grow up with. They included me in neighborhood games with the older kids and they let me stand at the bus stop with them before they went off to school. I idolized them, but I wanted a little sister. At the ripe age of three I was obsessed with Barney, my bunny stuffed animal, and playing mother, so clearly the only thing missing from the equation was a little sister to give all of my love to.

Finally, the heavens answered my prayers. My mom was pregnant. I was overjoyed. Clearly, I was never an only child so I didn’t experience that jealousy that people often talk about. I wasn’t going to be the baby anymore, so what? I was going to have a baby. That’s how I thought about it. I thought that the baby that was due in nine months would be my own personal baby doll. I would feed her from my plastic bottles, give herspoonfuls of peas that were painted onto my play spoon, I would brush and cut her hair because, obviously, shewould come out with a full head of long locks. This baby was going to make all of my dreams come true.

After the initial excitement over my mom’s pregnancy I quickly lost interest. I went back to my usual routine playing with the older boys all while watching my mother’s stomach grow and grow. Then one night we were all at the dinner table together. My dad was at the head of the table, Mark and Andy sat next to each other on one side and my mom and I faced them on the opposite side. Around the time that we were all finishing up my mom told us that she had some news. She found out the sex of the baby. I remember giving my mother a quizzical look and she said “Caroline, I know if you’re going to have a little baby brother or sister.” Whoa whoa whoa. Back up. This was up for debate? I was confused, but certain that my baby sister was hiding in my mom’s huge stomach. Maybe she was just building anticipation so my brothers would be excited. And that’s the night my luck ran out.

“We’re having a baby boy!” my mother said with excitement. “Why did she just say that?” I wondered. “Why does she sound happy?” I wanted to know. Across the table Mark and Andy were whooping and slapping high fives and, in that moment, I cried. Cried is an understatement. I bawled my little three-year-old eyes out. This could NOT be happening. My mother rubbed my back as my older brother’s rubbed salt in my gaping wound with their cheers and ear-to-ear smiles. With the end of dinner came the end of Mark and Andy’s enthusiasm. They went back to their Sega or Ninja Turtles or footballs; whatever it was they were enthralled with in that moment. How could this be fair? All I thought about all day was my baby sister while my brothers could not care less about the baby-to-be. Who was I going to take care of? Certainly not a babyboy. Gross. Eventually I went back to my normal routine of watching Barney and playing with my dolls, but whenever that little brother-to-be was brought up I would feign excitement while bitterness brewed within me.

Some months later my mother and father rushed to the hospital. The baby boy was ready to come out and ruin my life. Despite the solid fact that the baby was a boy, I remember crossing my fingers (since that always did the trick) for a girl. Much to my chagrin, a huge baby boy was born. I’m talking big. Eleven and a half pounds big. How rude of him to make such a large entrance.

The time came for us to be introduced. I was a little excited for the addition to the family, but I did not let anyone know. I went into the hospital room and kissed and hugged my mom. I was sat on one of the chairs and the not-so-little baby was wheeled into the room. My brothers looked on with anticipation as I patiently waited in the chair. My father went over and picked him up and walked toward me. “Caroline, meet your little brother Connor” he said as he carefully placed my baby brother into my already-trained-to-hold-a-baby arms.

I had never been more in love in my life.

He beat the baby dolls, he beat my Barbies, and he even beat the episode of Barney when someone stole the cookies from the cookie jar. I looked at him and was baffled that I ever wanted a baby sister. He was so much better. He could perfectly play the “baby” role and I could maintain my princess status as the only girl. This baby was smart being a boy and I loved him more than anything for fooling me.

Despite the four year difference (I turned four a month after Connor was born), Connor and I were best friends. He’s now 17, a senior in high school, and I’m 21, a senior in college. Our close relationship continues through the distance and age difference. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had a younger sister. I imagine it filled with fights over clothes, tears over boys, and disagreements over who did what…well I guess I’m just comparing it to sister relationships of my friends. Through Connor I found some truth to the abused saying/song lyrics, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”

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Lessons of My Brothers: Lesson #2

published on hercampus.com/umassamherst

Lesson #2: Follow your dreams

Big things have recently happened for all three of my brothers. While I’ve been right beside them growing up I have never really taken a minute to reflect on what they are all doing. So when I took that step back I realized that through their actions they have taught me the invaluable, and somewhat cheesy, lesson of following your dreams.

Andy, 28
My brother Andy started school at the University of South Carolina. Two years in he decided to transfer to Providence College to be closer to home. He got a job right out of school and immediately began work with Salary.com. From there he moved on to Success Factors and did so well that when he decided to make the move from Boston to Charleston, South Carolina his boss decided that he was so valuable to the team that they would let him work from home. He had it made. Working from his home, which was in walking distance to the beach, with his new pup. While Andy was content, his ambitions took over when he heard of a start-up company coming to Charleston. Andy’s perfectionism and charisma landed him a job as a senior account executive at PeopleMatter…a job that many people would kill for…and he’s only 28.

Mark, 24
Mark is easily the brightest kid in our family. It was always extremely frustrating when I would battle with a geometry problem or Spanish grammar or history facts and Mark would swoop right in and give the answer without a second thought. It’s as if everything comes natural to him. With his smarts he could easily land any job in any workforce, whether it be finance, writing, or even advertising. However, Mark has decided to take a much more unconventional route. After studying abroad in Granada, Spain Mark found his niche with foreign language. He’s the one I go to for Spanish paper corrections and I have often used him as my own personal dictionary. With this profound talent Mark is moving to Chile on Saturday, Feb. 5 with his girlfriend. That’s right…moving there. Not studying abroad, not going for vacation, going to live there. His plans are to work in a school teaching English in a 100% Spanish environment. Mark’s pursuit of a life that truly interests him and inspires others is bold and courageous. Although I am going to miss him immensely, I envy his fearlessness as he enters this next new and exciting phase in his life.

Connor, 17
Connor is the baby in the family, and basically my pride and joy. I have taken on the role of protective older sister and while I’m very comfortable in this position, I’m not quite positive Connor feels the same way. With his title of the “baby” comes the (probable) annoyance of everyone deciding what you do and how well you do it. Connor is an athlete to the core. He has always excelled at whatever sport you put him to. Coming from a big lacrosse family, Connor basically came out of the womb and into a lacrosse stick. He would always play with Mark and Andy and my father always was, and still is, his coach. Because of his outstanding skills everyone expected him to seek colleges that offered him a position on their lacrosse team – and that’s how the process began. He listened when coaches called the house and visited schools of interest, until one day he decided to tell everyone that lacrosse was not, in fact, his passion. After coming to this conclusion Connor’s desire to attend a school that offered a golf program became apparent. He found schools down south and, because of his exceptional golf skills, was offered scholarships to the PGA program at a majority of the schools he applied to. Connor decided to speak up and because of this, he is now able to pursue his true dreams.

All four of us are extremely different. We have different goals, aspirations, and outlooks on life. One trait that I believe remains consistent is our desire to achieve whatever it is that we want. As I near graduation I have been trying to explore job opportunities that are “more realistic” rather than what I would truly love to do. However, after taking a look at the steps of my brothers I now realize that any route is possible as long as I am willing to take the necessary steps to get there.


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Lessons of My Brothers: Lesson #3

published on hercampus.com/umassamherst

Lesson #3: Thick skin is a must

Although I was the only girl growing up I definitely was not a tomboy. My mom dressed me in bows and dresses and ruffles. My walls were lined with pastel flowered wallpaper. I idolized the Disney princesses (although I did love a good game of Ninja Turtles). With my girly nature came my sensitivity. If a ball was thrown at me I cried, if harsh words were uttered my way I cried, and if I got left out of an activity I cried. In fact, I became a sobbing version of “the boy who cried wolf” and looking back on it I must have been pretty obnoxious. Several of these events have led to my developed resiliency.

[Disclosure: Most of the following stories involve my brother Mark. He was/is NOT a terror, but being 2 years older than me, he had the easiest access to ego-deflating torture]
The bathtub incident:
When I was three years old my family and I made a trip to Duck, North Carolina. We rented a house on the beach with family friends and settled in for a relaxing week. I spent the majority of the day in the sand and out of the water due to a fear of the overpopulation of jellyfish and my mom’s fear of sharks. When the day was over my mom brought my five-year-old brother Mark and me to the master bath. It was huge and had jet capabilities which I told my mom I did not want on, much to Mark’s chagrin. Once we were occupied in the bath, Mark with toy boats and me with my Barbies, my mom left the room. Mark saw this as an opportunity to turn on the jets. Well, I did not like the unexplained eruption of bubbles overcoming me and so, naturally, I screamed bloody murder. My mom rushed to the bathroom just as Mark was turning off the jets. She calmed me, lightly scolded Mark, and left the room. This charade continued several times until finally my mom just stayed in the bathroom with us.

The failed band incident:
As a fourth grader my career goals consisted of being part of a super cool band. Who led me to believe I had a good voice, I do not know, for if I had to compare my vocals to one thing it would be Phoebe singing Smelly Cat on Friends. Letting my delusions get the best of me, I decided to create a band with my best friends. Flying Colors. That’s what we called ourselves. We only performed original songs and each of us went by a different color (i.e. Flying Blue, Flying Purple etc.). Wicked cool, I know. We even went so far as to record a tape on a walkman and look up the addresses of different record companies to send the demo to. Things were serious. One person who did not see me as having a future in the music industry was Mark. He would constantly mock me which was not something I appreciated as a budding artist. Needless to say my bandmates and I did not get our big break, but Mark will never let me live that time of my life down….as he continues to sing our #1 hit, “People”.

The creepy mirror incident:
When I was in 8th grade my family and I lived in Louisville, KY. After 13 years of growing up in Marshfield, MA, this was a huge and emotional move; however, once we saw our new home my brothers and I were overjoyed. The house was massive. Now, I’ve always erred on the side of overly jumpy (something I most definitely inherited from my mother). Being in a new home did not help my, what I like to call, condition. We were about six hours into our move and I was very busy unpacking and setting up my new room. While hanging my wardrobe up in my closet I happened to catch a glimpse of the mirror, which created a 90 degree angle between me and my door. I immediately screamed at the top of my lungs, literally, upon seeing Mark making, quite possibly, the creepiest face I have ever seen: think psychotic murderer status. My bone chilling fear sent Mark into stitches, and my parents into anger at the fact that I had overreacted so harshly. I should also mention that similar events continue to occur, in fact, last month Mark ran into my room wearing a mask. My response? A glass-shattering shriek. Apparently some things never get old.

The mashed potato incident:
My family was pretty conservative growing up in the sense that every week night we sat down for family dinner. We originally did not have a dishwasher at my house so after dinner my brothers and I would have to clear the table and wash and dry the dishes. This one particular night was my turn to wash so my brothers Mark and Connor (Andy was at college) had to wait around while I scrubbed. In the midst of Mark and Connor clearing the plates, and me washing, the two had taken mashed potatoes and rolled them into balls which they placed in the freezer…something I was completely unaware of. I finished washing and was helping put the dried dishes away when all of a sudden ice balls were hurled at my legs. I had never felt such a striking pain before. The boys were within three feet of me so the landing was fairly shocking. I screamed out in pain causing my parents to rush to the kitchen; however, when they saw mashed potatoes on the ground they gave a sigh of annoyance at me rather than my aggressive brothers. I have to give it to them, the plan was pretty amazing. Let the mashed potato balls sit until the outside is icy enough to crack with applied pressure, i.e. my leg. The bruises the next day were absolutely brutal.

While there were many more experiences these are a few that really stick out in my head. Tears came to my eyes with each jet turned on, each line sung, each creepy face or mask, and each mashed potato smashed on my leg, and yet I turned out to be the foolish one in all cases. Because of the comedy they experienced from my pain I learned to take the hits (literally and figuratively) with a grain of salt, and give them back when necessary. I have my brothers to thank for my developed toughness, and they only had to suffer through years of overly exaggerated tears to get me this way.

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Questions of bullying left open-ended

One thing Barbara Coloroso, a speaker and consultant on bullying and founder of kids are worth it! inc,  and Rosalind Wiseman, author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes”,  agree on is that the law should be a last resort when bullying is concerned and that legal action should only be taken when civil rights are being undermined. The women preach that there should be an intolerance for bullying in the community and that adults should act as they would want their kids to act. Both bullying experts believe that if enough preventative measures were taken in the school and community, such as teaching and mirroring respect, bullying would rarely get to the point where the law would need to step in.

While bullying experts have clear cut responses to most questions, a result of media attention and constant questioning, parents struggle more with the prospect of legal recourse. In an interview done earlier in the year, South Hadley resident, Tanya Kopec said that she did not think that bullies should be held legally responsible for the suicide of targets since “they didn’t pull the trigger.”

The battle against bullies has been the center of attention for schools and lawmakers following the Jan. 14 2010 suicide of Phoebe Prince. As a reaction to the suicide, six students were indicted in the Phoebe Prince case with charges including statutory rape, stalking, and civil rights violations, all which allegedly culminated to severe bullying. Furthermore, Massachusetts legislature was active in drafting an anti-bullying law which required public and non-public schools to submit a plan of attack against bullying by Dec. 31, 2010.

After the bullying phenomenon took off, experts surfaced and were featured on major news and entertainment networks, including CNN, Fox, Oprah and Dr. Phil, to speak about methods of overcoming bullying in schools and communities.

Coloroso believes that in order to overcome bullying there needs to be a comprehensive definition of a bully. Coloroso, who said she had an issue with the Massachusetts definition of a bully, defines bullying as, “a conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile activity intended to harm, where you get pleasure from somebody else’s pain. It can be verbal, physical, and/or relational. Habits overlay race, religion, gender, physical or mental ability. Includes all forms of hazing and cyberbullying.”

While Coloroso’s definition is extremely thorough Wiseman simply defines a bully as, “someone who abuses power.”

Wiseman says that in cases of stalking, harassment, violation of civil rights, and other offenses that go against laws that already stand, the student, or bully, should be held responsible. She feels that people focus so heavily on the behavior of the children and teens that they forget the necessary role of adults supporting a “common dignity”. “In extreme situations where you have a pattern of behavior there has to be some legal recourse,” she said. “There’s a lot to get to before you get to the law because discipline means to teach so we need to be teaching our children to be held accountable for behavior that’s demeaning to other people.”

Wiseman describes the fight against bullying as a “day-in-day-out commitment.” Her “owning up” curriculum teaches competency and dignity so kids and teens can learn to admit to their wrongdoings.

Wiseman spoke to community members at the South Hadley High School on Nov. 2, 2010 about how to confront bullying. Her methods are being used at the high school in place of Coloroso’s, who spoke in South Hadley several times. South Hadley superintendent Gus Sayer told The Republican earlier this year that Wiseman’s curriculum was favored because, “It’s not didactic. It’s a program that gets kids to think about what their relationships are with one another. It gets at the heart of some poor relationships.”

Like Wiseman, Coloroso believes in a “lead by example” methodology. Coloroso spoke of the importance of having a home that enforces learning responsibility through making mistakes. She believes that the bully needs to be held accountable and told to take action through the three R’s – Restoration, Resolution and Reconciliation. Coloroso believes the bully needs to be “humbled not humiliated” in order for the message to resonate. With a plan like the three R’s, coupled with adult acuteness and student willingness, Coloroso feels that legal action would be unnecessary in bullying cases and would only come as a last and final resort when changes failed to be made on the bully’s part.

The Three R’s

Restoration – the bully is called aside by an adult in private and told to own the action and fix the problem

Resolution – focus is on what the bully will do rather than what they will not do
Example:  they will ask the person they hurt to sit with them at lunch rather than saying     they will not call that person that name again

Reconcilation – this happens on the target’s terms. The bully approaches the target and asks to talk out the issue and, when the target is ready, the two can do so

Despite both bullying expert’s confidence that the law should not have to be active if preventative measures are taken, Massachusetts has enacted an anti-bullying law that says the school principal  must, “notify the local law enforcement agency if the school principal or designee believes that criminal charges may be pursued against a perpetrator.”

While that is part of the state mandate, each district must come up with their own plan of where responsibility lies. According to Section 5.d.v. of the law, “Each plan shall include, but not be limited to…the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken against a perpetrator for bullying or retaliation; provided, however, that the disciplinary actions shall balance the need for accountability with the need to teach appropriate behavior.” Therefore, the law states that each school must determine proper disciplinary actions to take when bullying becomes an issue that does not require legal recourse.

Because the law is so new, schools across Massachusetts are in a trial-and-error stage. Bullying is an ambiguous topic. There is never a black and white answer and schools cannot create solid outlines of consequences because, “each case is different,” according to Hingham Public Schools assistant superintendent, Ellen Keane. “It all varies depending on each situation.”

Extensive time and effort has been put forth in combating bullying both on the community and state level. Although areas of confusion have been covered with the anti-bullying law, many still wonder if teens and preteens will be held responsible when the law steps in? And more importantly, should they?


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Students get involved in giving blood

published in The Daily Collegian

Chairs are lined up and people are scattered, waiting their turn in the basement hallway of the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts. Inside one of the conference rooms, seven medical beds are arranged in a rectangle, each occupied by a person with blood flowing from the needle injected in their arm to the bag placed below them. The American Red Cross is at UMass and blood donations are in progress.

A bag of blood, equivalent to one pint, can save three people, according to medical director of the American Red Cross Massachusetts division, Dr. Jorge Rios. Because science has found no artificial blood source, people depend on donated blood for transfusions, the process by which blood is transported from one body to another. Blood transfusions are most commonly performed for people in traumatic car accidents, undergoing surgery, and chemotherapy patients, according to Rios.

Hospitals have blood banks, where donated blood is stored according to blood type. Three components, red cells, platelets, and plasma, are extracted from one bag of blood and are stored in the blood banks. The highest demand is for red cells, stored between 34-43 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 42 days, which are usually transfused at the same time as plasma, stored frozen at zero degrees Fahrenheit for up to one year.  Platelets have the shortest lifeline stored at room temperature for up to five days. After the blood has passed its usable time, the blood is thrown out because, “like milk in the refrigerator, sometimes it gets stale,” said Rios.

Approximately one-third of blood donations come from students, according to Red Cross registered nurse Ann Duncan. Prior to a blood donation, a screening process takes place, where donors are asked a series of questions about travel, weight and history of illness.

Marta Maietta, a junior, has been giving blood every 56 days since she was 17, she said. Twice she has been unable to donate because of her blood’s low level of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells.

“My mom and sister are anemic and my iron usually runs a little low, but by taking iron the night before and day of, I usually manage to stay above 12.5,” she said.

People below a 12.5 reading of hemoglobin, commonly called iron, are not permitted to donate blood because the Red Cross seeks to avoid causing patients to become anemic.

To test hemoglobin levels, donors are given a finger prick during the screening session, said Rios. Once the blood sample is collected, it is put into a small machine called the HemoCue. In about a minute, the HemoCue delivers the hemoglobin levels.

Another instance where one couldn’t give blood is if the donor weighs less than 110 pounds, or if they do not meet a certain weight criteria when they are 18 or younger, said Rios.

Sophomore Elaine Borenstein, 19, was not able to donate at the April 12th blood drive because she was 18 and did not meet specific weight requirements, she said. Each time a person donates, 15 percent of their blood is taken from them, and with a person under a certain weight, the blood donation runs the risk of taking too much blood from that person, said Rios.

Aides take blood pressure readings during screenings to determine if there is enough “energy from the heart” to accompany the blood flow, said Rios. With a normal blood pressure, donating takes between four and 14 minutes, whether it’s someone’s first or tenth time. After giving the blood, the donor goes to the recuperation table to hydrate and eat something to keep them from feeling faint. About six to eight weeks later, the donor’s body will have replaced all of the blood donated, said Rios.

Symptoms from giving blood vary person to person.

Junior Nathalie Fadel fainted after her first time donating, but every time since has been a “positive experience,” she said.

Dan Burke, a junior, received a seven-inch bruise when he was donating his freshman year of college, after the blood stopped flowing in his arm and the needle had to be adjusted, he said. Sergeant Dave Black of the UMPD donates blood four to five times per year, and said has been doing so since high school.

45 percent of the United States population has the universal donor blood type O, according to Rios. In case of emergencies, type O blood is given to patients until their specific blood type can be determined. In many cases, two blood bags are needed to replace the blood a patient has lost. A typical transfusion is ordered by a doctor and administered by a nurse, with the procedure lasting from two to four hours, said Rios.

The Red Cross does not have an upper age limit on giving blood. A donor must be 17 years old without parental consent to give blood, and may donate at 16 years old with parental consent. “Blood is always needed,” Rios said. “You never know what disaster may happen next.”

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South Hadley residents discuss Phoebe Prince & possible effectiveness of anti-bullying law

published on masslive.com

Following the deaths of Carl Walker-Hoover and Phoebe Prince, theMassachusetts State Legislatureenacted an anti-bullying law. The new law prohibits bullying in and out of school, and extends its sphere to the electronic world. Schools are required to develop prevention plans, yet how schools will actually carry out the law in an effective manner remains ambiguous.

However, identifying bullies and the bullied is often a difficult task.

“Kids who are perpetrating can hide it, and kids who are receiving it can’t get away from it,” says Carol Constant, mother of two girls who graduated from South Hadley High School. Constant recalls instances where her daughter was being bullied in school and nothing was done about it. Since the death of Phoebe Prince, Constant argues that the community needs to claim ownership of the instances of bullying in South Hadley.

However, the question remains of who is legally responsible. Six South Hadley High School students face a variety of charges related to the bullying of Prince. When the issue of where legal responsibility lies came up in a recent meeting of community leaders, Tanya Kopec said that she did not think the students could be held legally responsible for the death of Prince since “they didn’t pull the trigger.”

After attending a suicide prevention class in South Hadley, Kopec asked whether there should be more focus on suicide awareness rather than bullying. Both Kopec and Constant agree that the anti-bullying law is a positive step toward prevention, but neither can measure how effective it will be in schools.

“You want to hope. That’s all you can do,” said Constant.

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