School equips students to stand up against bullying
Bullying is the act of making others feel bad through words or physical action. This can include calling names, saying nasty things about people, threatening, and hitting.
Last year, I spoke with Dr. Ann Ferrell, the principal at Autrey Mill Middle School in Georgia, for a story about my school. She told me that if she could change one thing about Autrey Mill or any middle school, she would make sure students treat each other with respect.
"Occasionally, we have middle school students who don't treat each other with respect, and that really impacts learning for everyone," Dr. Farrell said.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and bullying is a topic that both kids and parents have been talking about a lot recently. I wondered how bullying was being addressed at Autrey Mill.
According to the administration, the school has policies against bullying, and Georgia strengthened its anti-bullying laws to protect victims in 2010. In 1999, Georgia was the first state to pass school anti-bullying legislation. Since then, 46 other states have adopted similar laws.
In addition to these rules, posters were put up inside Autrey Mill this month that call attention to the issue of bullying. The school counselors have also given presentations to raise awareness of teasing, harassment, and most of all bullying.
The school not only wants to prevent kids from being bullies — it wants to make sure they don't become victims.
"The message from the posters is to [let you] know not to participate in something you will regret," said Lyn Shiver, the 7th Grade Counselor. "I strongly encourage a victim to report and to not feel powerless. My job is to give people coping strategies, so if they are the victim, they know where to go for help."
Shiver had been a 6th grade teacher for 20 years before becoming counselor at Autrey Mill. She said that it's up to the adults at school to also be vigilant when it comes to bullying.
"Teachers too need to be careful in the classroom during situations like setting up groups," she said. "They need to know what may cause problems and to teach the kids to treat each other kindly."
Protecting yourself from bullying at school is only part of the battle. Bullying happens online, too.
With social networks and other methods of communication outside of school, cyberbullying has become a problem.
"Sometimes cyberbullying from things like text messages carry on into the school, and we would have to get involved in stopping it," Shiver said.
This school year, Autrey Mill has a new Principal, Jimmy Zoll. The issue of bullying has not changed since he has become Principal, and he continues to work with the counselors to put an end to it.
"Our counselors do a nice job on the presentation," he told the Kids Press Corps. "They give the definition of bullying, they tell the students what it looks like, what students can do about it, and most importantly how to let somebody know."
"What I want [students] to get out of the posters in the hallway is to see what bullying really looks like," he added. "Something you might think is little could really be huge."
People who aren't being bullied also have a responsibility to keep their eyes and ears open for bullying. The school is educating students about being a bullying bystander, too.
Even if you're not being bullied, you have a part in preventing it from happening.
"Historically, bystanders don't want to get involved," Shiver said. "But in order to change something bad, we need the bystanders to do what is right."
Principal Zoll agrees.
"We've got to teach [bystanders] to report it no matter what," he said. "I'd like to see them stand up, because I don't think being a bystander is acceptable. When you see something causing pain to someone, don't just stand there. Find an adult and let them know."
STAND UP TO BULLYING
Kid Reporters are talking to kids, parents, teachers, and stars about how to prevent bullying and keep it out of kids' lives. Find all of their stories in the Stand Up to Bullying Special Report.
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