Students and staff at Guyer High School this week took a united front in standing up to bullying.
School leaders shared statistics on bullying throughout the week during morning announcements. Other activities included bully trivia and an essay contest in which freshmen had an opportunity to compete for prizes.
On Thursday, the school conducted a semi-annual Unite Against Bullying Day. Students and staff were encouraged to wear orange and they were offered an opportunity during lunch periods to sign “The Bully Proof Pledge,” promising to protect themselves and their peers from the words and actions of bullies, defend the weak and be a leader in ending intimidation. Nearly 300 students printed their names on the orange pledge cards and taped them to a large orange and white banner in the shape of a T-shirt that read “UNITE. PLEDGE TO BE BULLY FREE.”
School officials say while they would typically be out in the cafeteria encouraging students to sign pledges, this initiative was one they wanted students to make their own decision about and not feel pressured to support.
Having a personal experience of being bullied herself, Kaileigh Thompson, a student council member, said she signed the pledge because she believed it was important to be kind to everyone who is “fighting their own battle.”
“Personally, I’ve been bullied my entire life because of my weight. It’s not fun,” the Guyer junior said. “There’s no reason for bullying, and I sympathize with the people that have been bullied.”
Freshman Payton Branch said he signed the pledge Thursday because “it’s bad for people to make fun of people because it’s a really bad habit,” and while it may seem cool to some, it’s really not. He said it was good seeing people wearing orange Thursday in support of the cause.
Chelsea Brown, a junior, said she felt it was important to sign the pledge and be a role model for peers.
Mary Rivers, a student assistance counselor at Guyer High, said the week was designed to be a powerful prevention tool to teach students to become “up-standers” and stand up for those they witness being bullied, be it in person or online.
According to Guyer school officials, research shows half of children are bullied at some point during their school years.
The theme of Guyer’s anti-bullying week coincides with the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights National Bullying Prevention Center’s theme: “Make it orange and make it end! Unite against bullying,” according to district officials. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center observed National Bully Prevention Month in October.
Kathleen Ashton, a Guyer High counselor, said this week was an attempt to offer students practical skills on what to do if they see bullying so that they can not only stand up for their friends but all people being bullied. Some of those tips included walking away when confronted by a bully; sitting with people who are isolated and make them inclusive of the group; and to report bullying to an adult. School staff promoted www.choosetocare.com, a website that allows students to anonymously report bullying and Ashton said videos are slated to be posted on the Guyer High website for students to reference on what to do when they witness bullying.
“Really, it’s not a message of don’t bully, but a message to stand up if you see it happening, not just stand by,” she said. “I think the more we empower them and the more resources we give them, the more the bullying decreases.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor