Newsworthy Stands Against Bullying

October may be National Bullying Prevention Month, but September’s news was full of wonderful stories about kids working to curtail bullying and help manage the negative effect it has on their peers. All over the United States, and in many other countries as well, kids are working with their friends, teachers, parents, and others to stop bullying and support people who have been victimized.

Courtesy KHON NewsIn Honolulu, Hawaii, 700 elementary school children worked in pairs to paint a mural of friendship on the cafeteria walls. Each pair used a paint bucket that symbolized a bucket filled with compliments and positivity. Local artists had prepared the ocean scene for the background, and the buddies painted creatures to show that “we” is better than “me.” These fish, turtles, birds, and other animals will grace their cafeteria for a long time, giving witness to how they worked together to fill their school’s own bucket of positivity.

When he heard about the No Bull Teen Video Awards, 17-year-old Hunter Hopewell from Henderson, Nevada, wanted to participate. Already excited about making videos, he saw a double opportunity: to work on his film and storytelling skills,Courtesy No Bull Video Challenge org, Hunter Hopewell and to share his personal experience with being cyberbullied when he started high school. He entered his first film last year, and it met with some success. This year his second entry, a documentary titled Numbskull, won the Best Documentary category at the awards. In the film, Hopewell shared not only his own reaction to being badly bullied, but also how he has recovered and built friendships. The Nevada attorney general’s office is planning to use the film in bullying prevention training.

Supporting students who may be different from their classmates, whether or not they have been bullied by others, is important to many teens. At the homecoming pep rally in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, the football team was not the only thing students celebrated. Senior Dakota Forness did not want his cerebral palsy to stop him from taking part in the excitement. Every year in school he had been fielding questions about his wheelchair and his ability to walk and do other activities. Coon Rapids High School MNHe spoke at the rally about what it really means to be victorious, and then, with help from a few classmates, rose from his chair and carefully walked the school flag to its place in the gym. The reaction from the student body was astounding. There were cheers and even a few tears as he shared this moment of personal triumph. At the homecoming game, he was asked to help lead the team on to the field.

Sometimes kids need someone else to get their energies and skills focused on the right way to treat others. Football coach Matt Labrum was hearing some upsetting things from teachers and counselors at his Roosevelt, Utah, high school. Many of his players were not passing classes, and some had been accused of being involved in serious bullying and cyberbullying. With the support of the school administration, Labrum pulled all his upperclassman players off the team, suspending most of the team until they earned back their jerseys. Union High School Roosevelt UTAH team suspensionIn a small town, with homecoming a week away, this was a brave move. To earn the jerseys back, players had to not miss any classes, complete mandatory study sessions, and take part in community service projects at schools and for local seniors. After that, they had to memorize a statement about character and have a plan to keep their grades up for the long run. Before homecoming, most players had their jerseys back, and the community had rallied behind the coach and the team.

These great stories do not mean that the battle against bullying is over. But they are affirming for those who work with kids. They can also inspire other young people to join the fight—not just stand by—but to speak up and take action. And they remind us, as parents and educators, that our perseverance and the examples we set are important to the kids in our lives.

Please share in the comments your own stories of students fighting against bullying.

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About Mary Stennes Wilbourn

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