Schools and Students Take a Stand and Get Creative | Bullying Prevention
With 1 in 3 students reporting that they have been bullied at school, it is easy to feel like anti-bullying efforts are hopeless. However, as Bullying Prevention Month comes to a close, we want to highlight a few uplifting stories about positive improvements being made in schools and communities across the United States. These four stories feature children who are choosing bravery and creativity to challenge bullying.
Free Compliments, Cabot, Arkansas:
Frustrated with all of the negativity surrounding anti-bullying efforts, the student council at Cabot Junior High in Arkansas decided to create a new tradition. According to THV11 News, the student council created flyers with tear-off tabs with unique compliments that students could pass around to their classmates and teachers. Jackson Kincade is the president of the student council and explained why they decided to do this. “Everyone is always trying to stop everybody from being so harsh to other people, but we’re just trying to kind of ignore that and say, just try to be nice.” Students passed these compliments to one another for an entire week and it seemed to really boost the morale of the school. Claire Tebbutt, an 8th grader, shared,
“At this age, everyone is changing and some people feel insecure about themselves and the compliments can make their day.“
“We Stand Up” Anti-Bullying Campaign, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
With the goal of raising awareness and prevention of bullying in local schools and neighborhoods, William C. Abney Academy in Grand Rapids, MI held its “We Stand Up” anti-bullying campaign including a march and mini-rally. On the second day of the campaign, middle school students performed in an anti-bullying play, “Hope for Tomorrow.” MLive interviewed Ryan Abbasse, athletic director and campaign coordinator about these events that were the culmination of a year of preparation. Abbasse stated, “Throughout the year, we have been having discussions with our students about bullying in assemblies and in their homerooms.” He further said,
“We wanted to raise awareness and change school culture. We want students to feel safe and be able to talk and be who they want to be at our school.“
The MLive article explained that the play production involved almost two dozen students and focused on “the courage and determination of young people to take a stand against bullying.”
“No Place for Hate,” Milwaukie, Oregon:
According to the Portland Tribune, the Alder Creek Middle School in Milwaukie, OR, was the first school in the state to receive a “No Place for Hate” designation by the Anti-Defamation League. The Dean of Students, Holly Starkey explained, “We really are trying to bring this issue to the forefront. We’re invested in whole child development.” This important designation is earned by schools that have worked diligently to nurture bully-free environments. This initiative was student-led by a 15-student positive action committee (PAC). Starkey also commented that, “When you think about anti-bullying programs, you think of teacher-driven lessons,” Starkey said. “We’re bigger on student involvement. We’ve tried to foster student voices, and I think the administration has seen that as effective.” To support these efforts, the school lead three anti-bullying activities and developed a school-wide pledge to receive the designation. One of the creative things they did was a no name-calling week and a random act of kindness week. The Portland Tribune reported, “The students also attended an assembly presented by an anti-bullying organization, a school-wide field trip to see the movie “Bully,” and Rex Putnam High School performed a play about bullying.” While these events served as a great way to start changing the culture of Alder Creek Middle School, the school understands that this can be a long and involved process. They hope to raise awareness for other schools and to make long-term changes. Starkey stated,
“Next year, we’re going to kick-off that much stronger. That’s exciting. We’re slowly creating a culture. Diversity is celebrated. It’s about them growing as people.”
Responding to Cruelty with Kindness, Grand Prairie, Texas
Earlier this fall at Grand Prairie High School in Texas, a few female students pulled a mean prank on one of their classmates Lillian Skinner. The mean girls tried to trick her into thinking that she was one of the students nominated for homecoming court. Mic.com reported that after Anahi Alvarez and Naomi Martinez heard about how their longtime friend Lillian was being treated, they decided something had to be done. According to NBC 5, Martinez said, “We promised each other and we were like, ‘No matter what, no backing down. If one of us wins, we’re giving Lillian the crown.” When Alvarez was crowned homecoming queen, she quickly had Skinner escorted over and then placed the crown on her friend. Skinner was very surprised by this act of kindness, but both of her friends said she deserves the crown more than anybody. In the NBC 5 report, Martinez and Alvarez described their friend as “one of the nicest people,” “amazing,” and “sweet.” When Skinner was interviewed by NBC 5, she said,
“My mom tells me, and I remember to tell my friends, ‘Look inside [to see what] counts. Not the outside. Look inside your heart. If you judge people’s skin, that’s bad. But look inside their heart, to who they are.“
These three inspiring girls were then invited to be on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Degeneres always concludes her show by telling her audience to be kind to one another and she wanted to reward these girls for their generosity and willingness to stand up to bullying. As a way of showing that it pays to be kind, each girl was given $10,000 toward their college education by Shutterfly.
These stories span all across the US and range from entire schools to a handful of students. Big or small, these stories of people taking a stand against bullying remind us of what is possible if we simply work together and are thoughtful. Have you heard of any positive stories or creative anti-bullying efforts going on in your community? Please share them with us!