Bullies and bystanders

First Posted: 9/15/2014

Hitting. Pushing. Teasing. Excluding.

These are just some of the words used by Lehman-Jackson Elementary students and teachers to describe the act of bullying during a program titled, “Stand Up, Step In, Speak Out, You Win!” with David Jack.

The children’s recording artist defined the term, “When a stronger or more powerful person hurts or frightens a smaller or weaker person on purpose once or over and over again.”

The program was presented at the school on Sept. 15 in two assemblies – first with the pre-kindergarten through second-grade students, then the third through sixth-grade classes. Both groups were taught what bullying is, how and why it happens and what to do in such a situation.

In most bullying circumstances, Jack told the students, there are three categories of participants: the bully, the victim and the bystander. He warned the students that the bystander can easily become a second bully or a second victim, if he or she reacts in the wrong way.

Three proper ways to deal with a bully, Jack told the students, are to “stand up, step in and speak out” – “stand up” for oneself by telling the bully what he or she is doing is hurtful and asking him or her to stop; “step in” as a bystander by pointing out the feelings of another who is being bullied and asking the bully to stop; and “speak up” by informing a teacher, principal or other responsible adult about the problem.

Sixth-grade students Gabrielle Shonis, Sean Hanley and Faith Butler all said after the presentation what impacted them most was the role of the bystander.

“It was informational,” said Shonis, explaining how a bystander should step in to help a victim.

Hanley believes a bystander can “definitely” help change a situation for the better, as “an influence to stop bullying.”

Butler agreed, saying this is important.

“I learned that bullying really affects children,” she said, “and you should step in and tell an adult.”

Jack also offered tips on how to prevent bullying, based on the concept that bullies often become such due to low self-esteem.

“Sometimes,” he said, “bullies bully because they feel bad about themselves. So how do we stop bullying in this school? Be a bucket filler, not a bucket dipper.”

He explained a “bucket filler” is someone who helps others feel better about themselves by being nice and saying uplifting things to them. A bucket dipper, on the other hand, is a person who causes someone else to feel bad or worse about themselves by being mean or saying negative things to them. This, he said, can often happen unintentionally.

“Sometimes, that bully can be your best friend. Sometimes, they won’t even know they are doing it.”

Jack used interactive games, songs and a mischievous virtual character projected on a screen to keep the presentation flowing and interactive.

Principal Donald James said the students in both assemblies responded well, and he believes the program to be “effective in a fun way.”

“I thought it was outstanding,” he said. “I liked the way he involved all of the students.”

He said the anti-bullying assembly is held every fall and is “a good start to the school year.”

“This makes kids aware that they can come to an adult about a problem,” James said, “and not feel ashamed or scared.”

The school’s bullying policy requires teachers to always address a bullying issue with the students, talking to the parents if necessary.

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