Girard Middle School and Haderlein Elementary School students got a surprise crime TV celebrity visit Friday afternoon.

Girard Middle School and Haderlein Elementary School students got a surprise crime TV celebrity visit Friday afternoon.

Joseph Schillaci, a lieutenant with the tactical operations section of the Miami, Fla., Police Department, visited the students at Girard Middle School to give his anti-bullying presentation “Sticks and Stones: A Journey to Agape.” Schillaci has made multiple appearances on crime docudramas such as “The First 48,” “Take The Money and Run” and “Miami City Vice.” Schillaci befriended Girard Police officer Bryan Burks several years ago, and his presentation was sponsored by the Girard Police Department, Girard USD 248, the Reno County Sheriff’s Department — Schillaci also is friends with an officer there, and spent the past two days in Hutchinson — and Communities that Care.
Schillaci has been on the Miami PD for 29 years, and has experience working in narcotics, community affairs and Miami’s 911 call center. Several years ago he was watching the movie “Superman” at a theater in Miami when he got a call informing him that a nine-year-old girl had been caught in the crossfire of a dispute between two teenage boys and was shot and killed.

“The ticket taker asked my why I was leaving so fast and not staying to see the movie, and I didn’t realize it at the time because I was so mad, but I had turned around and screamed at her that I’m going to go be Superman,” Schillaci said. “These kids just bumped into each other coming out of a store, started fighting and then started shooting at each other and she was killed by a stray bullet. After that I decided I had to leave narcotics and go somewhere I could develop programs to reach kids.”

Since then, Schillaci has spoken to more than 130,000 children and adults in more than 300 schools. He has spoken to 3,000 kids and adults in the last 45 days. His program takes the audience on a three-step journey: Through the Land of Violence, the Land of Judgment and the Land of Agape, or unconditional love and forgiveness.

Schillaci, an admitted “passionate Italian,” was loud and vociferous in his presentation. He got the kids directly involved in the show, often bringing up multiple student volunteers for demonstrations and working the kids into a frenzy.

In the Land of Violence segment, the audience learned the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can destroy us.” Schillaci relayed the story of a young girl who had been picked on so much that she shot another student and then kicked her repeatedly in the head. His swat team was about to break down the door of her home when the girl admitted to the shooting. When Schillaci asked her what her story was, she explained that no one had ever asked.

“She said she wished the kids would have physically hurt her, because the pain would eventually go away,” Schillaci said. “That’s the land of violence.”

In the Land of Judgment, Schillaci told the story of his own sister, who felt so bad after being picked on by her brothers that she became addicted to drugs at the age of 14 and never recovered. Again, Schillaci said, no one had bothered to ask her how she felt.

“The most important thing to learn is to tell someone if you’re being bullied,” Schillaci said. “Communicate it!”

In the Land of Agape segment, Schillaci recounted the story of two police officers who went to investigate four teenage boys who were selling drugs. One of the officers was shot. When he later asked the shooter why he had shot him, he said it was because he had been told his whole life that he never amount to anything, and that selling drugs made him feel powerful.

“Agape is the respect we have for each other, instead of bullying and calling each other names,” Schillaci said.

Principal Randy Heatherly said Schillaci’s visit was inspiring for the students.

“Middle School is such a tough age for kids with all the physical, mental and emotional changes they’re going through,” Heatherly said. “For them to be able to get an outside person to speak to them, it’s something they might receive a little better. It generates some excitement, rather than having the same old principal talking to them.”

Schillaci said the presentations have been a work in progress for the past six years. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the way the students handled themselves. Also, he said, they presentations are therapeutic.

“I’ve dealt with some evil things in my life, and I get a sense of hope again,” Schillaci said afterward. “When I come to do theses presentations with the kids I just get this enormous sense that there’s hope in for our society.

“But most important is the therapy I get from it,” Schillaci continued. “It helps me deal with all the things I’ve done in my life, like when I was bullying my sister. I feel at least like I’m telling somebody. Now, do I think I can change the world? Yes. If I reach just one person, and they go on to be a doctor, then I’ve changed the world. I may not see it personally, but I have to believe.”