Oct. 9 marked Unity Day, and students, teachers and staff at Roberts School wore orange to promote the cause and participated in various anti-bullying activities. 3rd/4th grade teacher, Rees Newton, who has been using Pacer—an online National Bullying Prevention Center, had her students perform the anti-bulling play, “Spookley the Square Pumpkin” for the 2nd grade class. The performance taught students that although Spookley was different from the other round pumpkins in the patch, the importance of respecting such differences of shape, size and color. Following the play, Newton and the classes discussed the character’s interactions and the appropriate ways to stand up for oneself. They then all performed a unity dance and Newton encouraged students to sign their names on the poster that pledges to end bullying, which was then sent to Pacer’s national petition.
After seeing typical bullying problems occur in classes and in school, Newton decided to take matters into her own hands and address the issue hands-on. With Pacer as a source for anti-bullying education for different age groups, Newton began adapting the site to teach her class how to handle various bullying situations. “It’s a lot about reminding them there’s a difference between not getting along and bullying, which is sometimes blurred. Kids don’t want to be bullies, but sometimes they don’t know,” Newton said. Although Newton knows bullying exists no matter how much students are educated, she believes if they have the right tools to approach and identify bullying, progress can be made. “I’m not starry-eyed about ending bullying, but it’s more about giving kids the tools to deal with it. It’s the idea that you can stand up to bullies and teach them what it means to bully,” Newton said. Since Newton has begun discussing the topic, she has seen more conversation from her enthusiastic class about the issue. All her students wore orange on unity day and were excited to perform for the younger class.
Newton hopes to build on the topics in upcoming years and eventually get the whole community involved and wearing orange. While the younger classes were learning about bullying in school, the 7-12 grades heard a presentation from police officer Earl Campbell who works for MT Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. His presentation covered a variety of topics to help protect students from cyber bullying, pornography, predators, identity theft, etc. To show how easily personal information can be accessed from various users, both known and unknown, he included a slideshow presentation using pictures from the classes individual Facebook pages.
Though the students found it funny to see their goofy, personal pictures on-screen, the reality is the Internet and social media can also be a harmful place if uninformed. “I believe it is important for our students to understand what can happen if they are not careful with how they use the Internet and social media. Officer Campbell did a great job of exposing our students to that reality,” said Elliot Crump, Superintendant of Roberts Schools. With educators, administrators and students addressing such topics outwardly, the hope is to raise awareness about bullying and Internet threats and prevent potential problems.