Parents fed up with teen violence are organizing to resolve the crisis. Some gathered on Main Street in South Paris for a vigil on Oct. 9. Standing from left: Lorraine Clark of Waterford, Misty Brown of Norway, Alishia Sessions of Norway, Jaci Presby of Mechanic Falls. Seated from left: Destiny Clark and Summer Clark of Waterford, with Gracie the dog.

PARIS — After a series of violent attacks by juveniles on their peers, several parents in Oxford Hills have come together to take a stand against bullying, hosting sidewalk demonstrations and forming a community group on Facebook to shed light on the problems their children face.

Norway resident Alishia Sessions was moved to start Oxford Hills Parents against Bullying after her son was targeted in a Sept. 2 assault that sent him to the hospital and his attackers began showing up at her home to harass him.

The latest vigil was held on Main Street in South Paris Friday evening, across the street from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Glow Sticks for Oxford Hills Youth. Confrontations and threats between teens and even parents had accompanied similar events held throughout the previous few weeks.

According to Sessions, the teen violence started several months ago and escalated over the summer when a court system hampered by the pandemic provided little consequence for the crimes. Events were finally tempered after two juveniles were arrested for attacking two other teens on Sept. 29 along what is known as the Viking Trail in South Paris.

The goal for Sessions’ group is not only to raise awareness but to advocate for resources to help both teens and parents. She would like to see the school district and school resource officers be involved in student conflicts before they spill out in the community, as she believes it has.

“Kids can be a handful, and parents need help to deal with their kids’ conflicts and apply effective discipline,” Sessions said. “Mediation and counseling needs to happen in the schools.

“And there needs to be a system between police departments so they are aware from town to town what juveniles are doing. There should be more communication about this.”

Sessions is in contact with Liesha Petrovich of Maine Kyokushin Karate in Norway and with Deb Landry, an anti-bullying advocate and coach who served on the working group that authored Maine’s Best Practices in Bullying and Harassment Prevention for guidance, as Oxford Hills Parents against Bullying develops its mission.

Petrovich, who has experience in deescalation and self-defense, has been advising the parent group on ways to keep participants safe if confrontations occur at vigils and other events.

“Unfortunately, bullying is a systemic issue in the Oxford Hills,” Petrovich said. “We have seen a drastic spike in the overdose crisis, our families with extreme food insecurity have tripled, and our mental health resources have dwindled.

“I’d love to see this group focus on eliminating the systemic issues that flame a bullying culture and instead invest in the future of all Western Maine families.”

Norway Police Chief Robert Federico was relieved to report that last week was the quietest for reports of assaults and harassment since the beginning of September.

“As long as people think with their heads instead of reacting on their emotions, we will find a way,” he said.

On Monday Sessions confirmed that tensions were much lower on Friday evening, reporting the only incident her group experienced during its vigil was a couple of young men in a red pick-up truck pulled into a parking lot across the street from them and yelling epithets. She said she did not recognize either of them as part of the gang that had attacked her son.

Sessions’ son had to move in with a family friend after his attackers gathered at her home and has been unable to focus on school, even remotely. She said another teen who lives in the same apartment building also had to go stay with family members outside of the area, but he has been able to attend school as part of his hybrid pod.


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