Samantha Gholar/News Sun Sebring Middle School students will take part in the Stand Up pledge, donning these T-shirts as part of the national bullying campaign. The Stand Up pledge is printed on the backs of the shirts, with students' and teachers' signatures, which will be used as reminders to always stand up for those being bullied.
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published: Friday, October 25, 2013
Pink isn't just for breast cancer
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- A pink flag waves in the wind just below Old Glory at Sebring Middle School. Unlike most pink seen during the month of October, it's not for breast cancer awareness, but it is for something just as important.
SMS has joined an international campaign against bullying known as Stand Up to Bullying. The special event will take place today in more than 3,100 schools in the United States and 25 different countries. Over one million people have signed the anti-bullying Stand Up pledge, which reassures students, friends and peers that bullying will not be tolerated.
SMS Language Arts instructor Courtney Germaine was the first person to bring up the campaign at the school and has worked hard to not only get her students to sign the anti-bullying pledge, but to also inform students about the results of bullying.
Wednesday morning, sixth and seventh graders entered Germaine's classroom with only one topic up for discussion: bullying.
Written on the board as the students entered the classroom was their daily guiding question. Germaine asked her students all the same question.
"Why do bullies bully and what ramifications does bullying have for victims?" Germaine asked.
Students quickly began writing their thoughts and picking apart the topic.
"All week we've been reading articles about bullying. I've pulled articles about people who were bullies and who have been bullied so we have both perspectives," Germaine said. "We've discussed Rebecca Ann Sedwick, the girl from Lakeland, in the seventh- and eighth-grade classes. Tomorrow, we will have a round table discussion about how bullying affects them and others."
Germaine said that the discussion about 12-year-old Sedwick, who killed herself in September after months of being bullied, hit close to home for many of her students and she has noticed a lot of talk regarding the incident.
"A lot of them admitted that they used to be bullies or had bullied before because of this," Germaine said.
"The story was sad. She was getting death threats," said sixth-grader Willis McGuire. "It's mean and cruel. If I knew it was happening to someone I think I'd speak up and tell a trusted adult."
SMS Guidance Counselor Donna Foster has jumped on board with the Stand Up campaign in hopes of bringing a deeper understanding of bullying to the school. Foster purchased nearly 100 of the light pink shirts for the Stand Up to Bullying pledge day out of her own pocket.
The pink shirts are a symbol of respect and acceptance introduced by Travis Price and David Shepherd, two former students at Central Kings High School in Cambridge, Nova Scotia, who intervened when a new freshmen student was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day at the new school.
Price and Sheperd returned to school the following day with several pink shirts and handed them out to seniors to wear to show their support for the bullied student, according to www.standupday.com/.
"I was really nervous at first that the students wouldn't take a big interest in this, but it's better than I thought. They are really engaged and active, it's going great," Foster said.
On the front of the shirts, two words -- Stood Up -- are printed in big, block letters. The backs of the shirts are labeled with the stand up pledge and read: "Today I have an obligation no longer will I be silent if you need help. Silence is participation. I refuse to participate in the problem. We're all different, but we deserve respect. If you need help, come to me. If I think you need help, I'm getting involved. I Got Your Back."
Seventh-grade girls Camryn Lee and Chyenne Short have both dealt with bullying first hand and shared their experiences and their friends' experiences during the reading activity.
"In fifth grade there was a kid that said I wasn't cute enough to ever get a boyfriend," Short said. "I told my dad. My dad tells me things to say to bullies whenever they start to bother me."
Lee spoke of a friend at her last school who tried to hurt herself after being bullied constantly.
"I had a friend last year in sixth grade, she almost killed herself. She tried cutting herself. She had to stay in the hospital a couple of weeks. People would always make up stories about her. I told them to leave her alone all the time but she didn't want me to get involved because I guess she was afraid more people would bully her," Lee said.
Lee said her friend was eventually removed from their previous school and has been doing better.
"I haven't talked to her in a couple weeks. I usually call her on the phone. When I came to the new school I had someone look after her. I told them to make sure no one bullies her," Lee said.
SMS students will don their pink anti-bullying shirts and hand-made buttons today to show their support for all those who have been bullied and to demonstrate that SMS has no tolerance for bullies.
SMS, along with all of Highlands County schools, utilize what is known as a bully box. The box is conspicuously placed in a common area at each school where students can anonymously drop letters or concerns to inform administration of any bullying going on or off campus.
Foster says the box has been effective.
"They use it. There's not a ton of things going into it, but it is being used. We investigate and discuss everything I find in there. It's a great tool that all of the Highlands County schools use. But there is so much more than we can do and that we will do to stop bullying in our schools and do all we can to prevent something tragic from happening," Foster said.
Germaine feels like the schools has been affected greatly by the recent bullying incident in Lakeland.
"They don't quite get that being silent is participating. So many of them feel like they're being a snitch or a tattle tale, but they have to understand sometimes you need to speak up and it's okay to tell someone," Germaine said.
Arm your children... (by: Ericka - 10/26/2013)
In an age where we are completely overexposed to violence and trauma, nothing shocks us...nothing shocks our children. Human cruelty reflects that. Bullying reflects that. A box in a hallway of a school will not do anything to change that. Schools generally are more interested in achieving their benchmark scores than doing anything about changing the student mindset.
Bullying (by: Just saying..... - 10/25/2013)
Kudos!!! I would like a shirt. I know it's important to begin educating at school age, but I know adults who have also been/are bullied. I hope the campaign includes adults also.
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