Administration and faculty at North Central High School (NCHS) are emphasizing the “power of the bystander” in a school-wide effort to stand up to bullying.
February was bullying awareness month at NCHS, a way to start a conversation on the mental, emotional and physical effects of bullying on individuals and the community. The school held weekly events to increase student awareness and help foster new relationships between students.
During a “Mix it Up Day,” students sat with people they’ve never talked to or rarely hang out with. At another event, students were encouraged to take a pledge to stand up against bullying. Those that did received a bracelet signifying they are a safe haven for other students who need to talk about issues they are facing. Students created anti-bullying posters, and placed quotes all over the school that shine a light on the various aspects of bullying.
“The current senior class is a good group of students,” said NCHS guidance counselor Amy Jenkins. “If they are aware of bullying, they will step in.”
When a student sees any form of bullying, whether it is physical or cyber-bullying, Jenkins suggests that students tell a staff member, deflect the situation by asking the bully or the person being bullied a question, or just telling the bully to stop. Anything that will diffuse the situation is a big help, she said.
Jenkins said a theme with bullies is that most of them are unhappy with themselves; some may have “rotten” home lives, others may be insecure and jealous. The “power of the bystander” is what Assistant Principal Rose Montgomery wants students to get out of the school initiative.
“We want to create a culture that doesn’t accept bullying,” Montgomery said.
She believes February’s awareness month set an expectation of how students should proceed when they have a conflict with another student.
Although upperclassmen like seniors Meagan Moseley, 17, and Christ Turner, 18, helped get students involved in the anti-bullying effort, the awareness month is geared toward underclassmen.
Moseley said she is careful about what she posts on social media sites because peers may try to link what she posts to a particular person. You also have to be careful about who you are talking to and how you joke with them, Turner said. The Internet is the medium of choice for many of today’s bullies; cyber bullying starts at home and can escalate at school Montgomery said.
So far, NCHS has only had three fights this school year. Montgomery said she contributes the success to the faculty and administration’s knowledge of what to look for and the counseling that happens in response to it.