Violent movies, police blotters detailing individuals who swear at store managers and a general lack of respect have prompted two First Congregational Church of Darien members to form a civility panel.

John Bassler and Mariann Bigelow began discussing the idea after they realized how saturated the media and daily interactions were with violence and disrespect.

"We started thinking about our own community and what is happening in the schools and on the athletic fields and how people interact," Bigelow said.

Bassler added the fact that technology has made the ability to bully people more available while still remaining anonymous.

"Technology allows bullying to happen and cyber bullying is just cowardly," Bassler said.

Bassler said there is a general lack of respect in today's society. He cited a particular experience he had in a Greenwich doctor's office when a woman was talking on her cell phone.

"There seems to be a deterioration of respect for the individual," Bassler said.

Bigelow also addressed a concern that the people who should be acting as role models, such as professional athletes, are sometimes behaving in a manner that encourages bad behavior.

Bassler agreed and wondered how the police are handling bullying.

"It used to be that you could talk to the parents and it would stop but now there is a greater sense of denial."

Both Bigelow and Bassler have been noticing an increasing amount of violence appearing in all forms of media.

"I was watching television the other night and I must have gone through at least five channels where there was nothing but people being killed and bombs exploding," Bassler said.

In order to combat the lack of respect in society, Bassler and Bigelow are teaming up to host a civility panel, which will include Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of the Darien Police Department, Rachel Kucera Mehra of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Ed Moran of the Family Centers, Olive Hauser of Darien Social Services, and Dr. Don Longbottom, the First Congregational Church of Darien's Interim Senior Minister.

Bigelow said their hope is to give each of the panelists time to briefly describe their own experiences with civility before they answer a series of questions, which will range from how the community contributes to ways people interact with one another and how the home setting can impact a child's ability to act respectfully.

"We're asking the questions and we're hoping to send people home with some advice on how they can increase the civility of their interactions," Bigelow said. "One of the problems in today's society is that we don't really take the time to get to know each other. We're always trying to do a lot at once."

Bassler said he hopes the panelists will share their perspectives on the issue of civility. The responses the panelists give may very well prompt new questions that weren't going to be addressed, Bassler said.

"I think there will be robust conversation and some people may hear things they don't like and exhibit the very behavior we're discussing," Bassler said.

By raising awareness through the panel, Bassler and Bigelow hope people will begin to change their behavior and really consider how their actions can impact the community.

"We can change the way people perceive their behavior," Bigelow said.

As for any plans for future civility panels, Bassler and Bigelow said they will wait and see how next week's event pans out.

"We'll see what kind of reaction we get and we hope as many people as possible will come out and attend this event," Bassler said.

The civility panel will be held Thursday, March 31, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Darien. Those interested in discussing the issue of civility, or lack thereof, is encouraged to attend.