Mahaffey Middle School was host to the anti-bullying program “Stronger than a Bully,” Friday. Organized by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and presented by Mobile Ed Productions, the program aims to empower children when they encounter bullying. In order to concentrate the message, 500 Mahaffey students were given the presentation according to their grade level.
Childhood is challenging enough, and learning how to get along with your peers is essential, was the message presented throughout the program.
Presenter David Mitchell uses audience participation, ventriloquism, magic and role playing to actively engage students, educate them on the different types of bullying and teach them important steps to avoid becoming the victim of a bully.
“We can’t talk to kids enough about this,” said Gary Gerstner, assistant superintendent for Department of Defense Education Activities’ Kentucky district. “No child deserves to be a victim.”
The interactive program is designed around two acronyms that help children remember the steps to take action.
The first acronym, S.M.I.L.E, is aimed at what children should do when personally confronted by a bully. It stands for Stay cool, Make eye contact (take a positive posture), Identify the attack, Lead positive conversation and Erase the attack. Mitchell introduced students to his wisecracking friend Dexter the Duck as they performed examples of bullying behaviors for the audience. This section was accented by a magic trick that had five students pick letters from the acronym while Mitchell guessed which letters they had chosen and the audience shouted what each letter meant.
The second acronym, H.E.R.O. gives the students a plan and the steps to take when they witness bullying. Students are taught to Help out (get involved), Empathize (identify with the victim), Respond with proper action and report the incident, and Open communication by talking with the victim. “A hero is anyone who will stand up and help someone that needs it. Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander,” said Mitchell as he drew a face on his magic whiteboard. The children were delighted as the drawing came to life and spoke with Mitchell about helping others that are being bullied.
Assistant Principal Pansy Straub was grateful that the PTO sponsored this program for the students. “Being a bully-free environment is a message that we will continue to emphasize with all students,” she said. “We want our students to gain lifetime skills to keep from being in a bullying situation not only in middle school, but in future schooling and employment.”
The program at Mahaffey was intended to open a dialogue between students and their parents. It is important for parents to keep the lines of communication open with their children as many students keep bullying a secret.
The presentation encourages children to speak up about bullying with their parents and other adults.
Emily Rich, a parent of an eighth grader at Mahaffey Middle School, plans on having a discussion with her daughter about the presentation. “This will be a topic of conversation on the way home with my daughter,” said Rich.
Bullying does not only affect children. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, it is important that parents and school staff work together when trying to resolve bullying in schools. With the growing attention attached to bullying and its effect on the youth, this program is a proactive step in helping to reduce its negative impact on students.