by Lisa Tome
"Stand up rather than stand by".
That's the message that is spreading throughout North East Middle School during the month of October.
School lead secretary Nicki Miotla explained that the school has an Anti-Bullying Club throughout the school year. The role of the club members is to stand up for students who are being bullied. During Anti-Bullying month, the group sells t-shirts with the Stand Up message. Proceeds from the shirt sales go into a student fund.
Students with the shirts were encouraged to wear them last week on an Anti-Bullying Day. The school will also have an Anti-Bullying week From October 22-25. On October 24, the shirts will be worn again.
School guidance counselor Nedra Handy explained that bullying is a problem on the middle school level. "At this point they want to be like the crowd," Handy said. She also said that students who try to be "an individual" may be a target. "It is prevalent on the middle school level. With maturity and other focuses, it's not as prevalent."
During October, Handy goes into the classrooms and teaches about bullying and how to prevent it. She also said that social media now adds a new twist to bullying. "With social media, they have more freedom and anonymity to say what they want. But kids have more power now. We stress the power of the bystander. We see more people standing up for victims of bullying. They are standing up for each other more," said Handy.
She said that bullying has been around for a long time.
"I don't know if it will ever stop. I hope with lessons and campaigns we can stop it. But it's in to be a nice kid nowadays," said Handy.
Middle school students aren't the only ones learning how to be more kind.
Thomson Estates Elementary School will have anti-bullying events and activities from October 22-25.
School principal Matt Stephen and assistant principal Meghan Brown explained that there will be role playing and other activities to discourage bullying and spread the message that the school family is "only as strong as your weakest link."
Stephen said that bullying is an issue in school. He said it can happen on the playground, bus, at the bus stop, and the school cafeteria - times that students gather in a non-structured setting.
"If you have air tight plans and students are engaged, there is no time for it," said Brown.
Thomson Estates will also host a culminating assembly on November 5 which will reinforce the anti-bullying message.
There is also a countywide Step Up against Bullying Poster contest. Winners of the contest will be honored at a Board of Education meeting later in the school year.