Montross Middle school is putting an end to the days when people dismissed bullying as “kids will be kids.” The issue, a nationwide problem, was addressed locally on Oct. 15 during Bullying Prevention and Awareness Night.
Teachers, students, parents and other community members came together to support and enforce bullying prevention.
“Bullies come in all shapes and sizes,” said Assistant Principal Micheal Ransome. He debunked what he called 10 myths about bullying, including that bullies are always bigger.
Ransome said he learned about these myths as well as lots of other valuable information at a conference he attended along with Principal Jane Geyer, Guidance Counselor Mark Brier and Deputy Karl Wendell from the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department.
Brier addressed the psychological harm that bullying can cause in both those being bullied and bullies themselves, as well as how school counselors handle bullying. Eighth-grade teachers Jane Grimes and Megan Huntington shared cases of bullying they have seen and said it most often comes in the form of exclusion or verbal bullying. They said they deal with it by being very observant and making sure to report anything they see to administration. Huntington has also created a bullying book for students to have a safe place to write down what has happened. This also provides the teachers with documentation of the incident.
Geyer, who spearheaded the event, said she got the idea from attending education conferences, where over the past few years, a good amount of attention is being given to bullying. She said media reports that link recent student suicides to bullying, along with research indicating that middle schools nationwide have the highest rates of bullying, made her feel that the Montross community needed to address bullying.
A recent study by the University of Virginia said 30 percent of middle school students reported being physically attacked, pushed or hit in school, she said. There were similar statistics for Montross Middle School, with 11 percent of students reporting they have bullied another student.
The middle school is implementing the Positive Behavior Info System, which has proved very effective against bullying. As part of the system, the schools are bringing back good citizenship awards and student-of-the-month at each grade level.
The middle school also has been participating in an anti-bullying program in which teachers educate students about bullying. They started with a five-week program that includes role play and interactive lessons. They will continue with material from StopBullying.org and BullyBusters.
While acting out bullying scenarios, the observer in the skit is meant to say, “stop” to the bully. Grimes and Richards said some of their students had used the stop method in a real situation in the classroom. working and students are using what they’ve learned.
That is what Geyer was hoping for in instituting the program.
“I believe that if bystanders would take a more active role when they witness bullying we really could, as a community, have an impact just like the seat belts!”