News: Stand Up to Bullies with PRIDE

Photo Credit: Liviera Leebong

One in three high school students are bullied. One in five of these instances involve physical violence. (posed)

M-A’s anti-bullying campaign took its first big leap this week with Monday and Tuesday’s first ever PRIDE and anti-bullying assembly in the PAC.

The assembly was put together by M-A’s Anti-Bullying Council. It started with a brief introduction from Administrative Vice Principle, Simone Kennel, and council president, sophomore Sophi Bock. “Bullying is a form of aggression in which one or more students intends to harm or disturb another student through behaviors such as rumors, exclusion, physical violence, threats, and vandalism. Regardless of behavior, bullying creates a pattern of fear, humiliation, and abuse for the victim by intimidation,” said Sophi at the start of the assembly.

Following the introduction was a video made by two of John Giambruno’s video production students, Valeria Nava and Casey Kiyohara, interviewing students and staff members who have been bullied, have bullied others, or have witnessed bullying. The bullying mentioned in the video was atrocious, and many of the examples given happened on a school campus. There were instances of rumor spreading, throwing around rude slurs, name-calling, physical violence, and even hospitalizations. The video also informed the audience on facts about bullying such as the fact that school bullying rates are higher in the U.S than in any other country and that LGBT youths are 3 times more likely to be bullied.

Proceeding the video was a panel of guest speakers which included Special Ed teacher Melissa Smilgys, M-A graduate Emerald, senior Chelsea, and (on Tuesday) junior Danny. They each detailed their stories about being bullied, witnessing bullying in action, or being a bully themselves.

The goal of the assembly was to encourage “M-A’s school wide goal of PRIDE,” says Ms. Kennel, a key leader in arranging the assembly, ”we want to tie in anti-bullying efforts to patience, respect, integrity, determination, and empathy. The assembly was a kick-off to the year and for every first Friday in SSR, the committee is working to put lessons together that teachers can do with students about bullying.” Starting this Friday, and every subsequent first Friday of the month, SSR time will start being used to teach these lessons about bullying and what students can do to stop it.

The program began with Sophi Bock, the guidance counselors, a couple administrators, and English teacher Valerie Caveney. At first, there were almost no students involved but gradually, more joined the committee. “It’s so nice to have other students now,” says Sophi, originally the sole student part of this council, “we all compliment each other and a lot of the time we are all on the same page without even saying it out loud. Such a great group. All of our representatives are people who are really enthusiastic about the school. We all put in a lot of effort and want to make our campus a better place.”

The anti- bullying council is getting a  very important message across to the student body: that bullying needs to stop because it affects people more deeply than anyone can understand.

While a lot of the cases brought up the assembly happened in person, Ms. Kennel brought up an excellent point about cyber-bullying in an interview. She explained how there were numerous cases of cyber-bullying brought to her attention, so much that it would start affecting the student, their drive, their focus, and their willingness to go to school, even if it may not have happened at school or during school hours.

The council wants to make sure every student feels safe coming to school, knows the tools they have to be upstanders instead of bystanders, and tries to make someone’s day better. They encourage things like avoiding judgement by thinking something nice about someone before assuming negativity.

Starting this Friday, and every subsequent first Friday of the month, SSR time will start being used to teach these lessons about bullying and what students can do to stop it. Also, lunch time activities are being planned as well as something to reiterate this during second semester.

If any students are interested getting involved with this program or be a part of the Anti-Bullying council, they can talk to Ms. Kennel, Ms. Todd, Ms. Caveney, Sophi Bock, James Patch or any other students who were involved in the assembly. The program is a safe place with no judgment, and those involved are completely welcome to new ideas and opinions.

The program wants those who are bullied to feel empowered and report the abuse. Those who witness bullying should stand up to the bully, assist and intervene, or help a victim report a bully. And those who might be the bullies are encouraged to analyze their actions, stop and think about making it better, and replace it with positivity. The school offers many services that could help such as counseling and administrators that students can go to talk to.

“Mrs. Olliver is absolutely amazing, she has helped us so much,” says Sophi Bock, “I think she is one of the most inspiring women on campus. If anyone has any problem, please go to her. She helps SO much.”