Fayetteville High School seniors and juniors took the lead in conducting a schoolwide anti-bullying campaign Tuesday and Wednesday.
“My goal is to define bullying,” guidance counselor Rachael Sherbert said. “Bullying is used so often the true meaning is not grasped.”
Sherbert said she initiated the idea at the end of last year’s school term.
“My instinct was to ask a group of seniors to sit down and plan,” Sherbert said. “They decided they didn’t want to bring in outside contacts, but to do the sessions themselves. They said as school leaders they wanted to take a part, and said, ‘Let us do it instead.’ It’s their school and they want to make a difference.”
Principal Byron Brasher said, “This is a student-led and organized program that was closely guided by Mrs. Sherbert. They came up with the plan. The students are taking leadership roles, making decisions, and they’re taking ownership.”
Sherbert said, “I’ve been very pleased the way they’ve stepped up to the plate. They’re wonderful, awesome.”
Rather than use a specific resource, senior and junior students researched and developed lesson plans approved by Sherbert.
Juniors conducted sessions for grades K-3 in their classrooms. Coloring sheets, object lessons and an image of a hand listing on each finger someone the student can contact to report being bullied or seeing someone being bullied were part of the presentation.
After conducting their sessions, Sherbert said they came to her saying they wanted to teach another session.
“It is a wonderful thing,” Sherbert said. “Through involvement they are getting more out of it and are so enthused.”
Rather than sessions being conducted in individual classrooms, grades 4-6 rotated to a classroom where seniors presented skits, involved students in scripted role playing, and for grades 7-12, teams rotated to each classroom for the presentation.
Sherbert said she believes bullying is typical in every school.
“We have to teach children not to bully,” she said. “We find a way to make a difference in kids’ lives.”
“We have to find where they are and get them to where they need to be,” Brasher said.
Sherbert said seniors who are victims of bullying can share their stories.
“They (younger students) see them as role models; they tell how bullying affected them and how they are dealing with it now,” Sherbert said.
Senior Rachael Harris, a victim of bullying, said it still bothers her at times. “If I’m having a ‘bad hair day,’ and some ones says something it sometimes brings back memories of all the times people call you stupid. It cycles in your brain. But you push past it because you know it’s not true.”
Senior Casey Yoder said he got involved because he has heard younger kids say mean things, and while they may be joking at first, but it becomes negative. “I want to lead them out of that. That can affect them the rest of their life. I want a ‘bully-free facility.’”
Yoder recalled being isolated in sixth-grade P.E. class. He also said there was one guy he and others didn’t like and they fought. He said many fights in bathrooms begin with just “playing around” but then it got out of hand.
Anna Burks, also a senior, said she is motivated to participate because at first she didn’t really think about bullying in school until she researched it and discovered there is more bullying in school than people may think.
Burks recalled painful memories in elementary school when students called her “fat” and “four-eyes.” She said she was embarrassed and didn’t want to feel different even when called “teacher’s pet” or “goody-goody two-shoes.”
When asked if it bothered her to share about being called names Burks said, “You can’t sugar coat it; it is what it is.”
Sherbert had session leaders target junior high. “I’ve noticed that K-3 may resort to name calling, but they still kind of love each other, and don’t notice differences.”
Grades 4-8 are at different levels of development, she explained. “They start noticing the differences in each other.”
Brasher said, “They are undergoing physical and emotional changes and are often confused trying to be adults while still a kid.”
Brasher and Sherbert agreed that some students bring bullying attitudes from home.
“If that is the way they learn to communicate at the house, they bring it to school,” Brasher said.
Sherbert said, “If at home they are made to feel inadequate, they can come to school and bully someone and feel powerful, which makes them feel important. At school we need to teach them to feel important in other ways.”
Sherbert said part of the blame could be placed on the influence of the internet and the drama on TV.
“They have to stop allowing others to work them up,” she said, “Usually there is always a pot-stirrer.”
Brasher said, “Parents never just throw their kid the keys to the car and say go drive. They must teach them to be responsible. The same with social media and cell phones. You just can’t give them these things without teaching them to be responsible.”
Sherbert said parents need to teach their children to be accountable. “Parents as a whole don’t know enough about how to check Facebook or Smartphones to monitor what their kids are viewing. Parents are accountable,” she said.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at email@example.com