Starmount Middle School teachers, students and staff are joining forces to try to bring an end to bullying in their school; an issue that many say is an epidemic across the nation.
When Starmount Middle School Counselor Brittany Shaud came to Starmount earlier this year she started talking to the students and the teachers to find out what kind of issues the school is facing. Everyone in the school seemed to agree that the number one issue was bullying.
“As a counselor I ask the students what we should talk about in the classrooms and every single one of them said bullying,” Shaud said. “I think they might have suggested it because it’s becoming a more visible problem but I was already seeing a problem starting here in the first weeks of school.”
Shaud said that she set out to create a curriculum to address the student’s concerns with bullying and to make sure that they understood what bullying means and what they can do to prevent or stop it.
Prior to visiting the classrooms Shaud created a questionnaire for students to complete that would give her an idea of their understanding of bullying and what it means to them. Each student filled out the survey that asked students to explain what made a person a bully, describe bullying behaviors, to define bullying and then asked them to share if they had every been bullied by other students either physically, verbally or socially.
Shaud said that she learned that many students were not aware that there was more to bullying than just the bully and their victims.
“I went in to each class and spoke about bullying; what it means, what it actually is,” Shaud said. “I explained to them there are three different types of bullying: the bully, the victim and the spectator. A lot of the students didn’t consider being a bystander as being a part of bullying. I explained to them that doing nothing when you see bullying is part of bullying.”
Shaud said that the students were very receptive to the program with many students bringing up experiences they’ve had or experiences their friends have had with Facebook bullying.
“A lot of students gave me Facebook examples and I have to explain to them that the teachers and staff want to help them out but when it’s something happening on a social media site at home we can’t really do anything about it but I do make sure to explain to them that there are laws against it,” Shaud said.
Shaud said that she thinks that bullying has evolved a lot over the years with the development of technology and social media. She says until cell phones were commonplace among most students most bullying was physical or verbal. With social media, Shaud says, the bullying has become faceless.
“The bullies seem to think that it’s a lot easier to do because they can be anonymous going through technology instead of doing it face to face,” Shaud said. “That makes it worse, too, because the person being bullied doesn’t always know who’s doing it and the bully can be using ten different names on a social media site to bully someone making the victim thinks there’s 10 different people attacking them when it’s really just one.”
After Shaud made a presentation to all of the classrooms the school held its first ever Unity Day on Oct. 10. The event was to raise awareness on the topic of bullying and to encourage students to unite by wearing orange. Students were also encouraged to put their signature on the school’s Unity Banner as a pledge that they would not take part in bullying.
“By signing the poster each student is pledging that they will not be a part of bullying,” Shaud said. “If the administration finds out that a student is involved in bullying then they have to remove their name from the poster.”
Shaud said that she has seen an increased number of students coming to her office to address instances of bullying since her presentations in the classroom. She says that several students have taken the situation to heart and have asked for her help to make changes in the school.
“After a presentation I had two students that came up to me and said there was another student who always sits by himself at lunch and they wanted to be able to eat lunch in my classroom so that they could make him feel included,” Shaud said.
Another student has asked for Shaud’s help in creating an anti-bullying club called Rachel’s Challenge. Shaud said that she is happy to see the positive response from the students and hopes that this will be a program that has a lasting effect on at least one student’s life.
“If students have a question then they’re coming to me and that’s helping to build a rapport with teachers and me as a counselor,” Shaud said. “Some of the things that come to me can be a bit ridiculous but I would rather have several ridiculous cases and be able to have the one student come in that we can help and keep from hurting themselves than to not have that awareness and have something horrible happen.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.