I never thought much about bullies. To me, they were oversized kids who punched you and took your lunch money (i.e. cartoons). No one talked much about bullying when I was growing up. We didn't even talk about it that much at Mapleton Junior High.
Sunset Ridge is much more serious about bullying. They have a bully committee, bully text line, the Student Ambassadors and an entire mandatory assembly about cyberbullying.
I posted about this on Facebook/Instagram, but it's still just so heartwarming. A younger new student found a post-it note on her back at the end of the day labeled "Caution: Oversized Load." She was so upset. Just beside herself. She missed her bus and went into the office to call for a ride, when one of the counselors noticed her emotional state and talked to her. She alerted the Student Ambassadors of the situation and they hit the ground running. They began a viral Facebook/text chain alerting students of the story and encouraging them to make a stand.
The next day nearly all the students walked around with post-it notes on their backs labeled "Not in Our School. Stop the Hate." Isn't that just amazing? I was so proud of them.
Also in the news, I'm sure you've seen the story about the girl who was nominated for Homecoming Royalty as a joke (messed up) and instead of dropping out or refusing to participate, she took a stand. She decided to hold her head high and go for it. Local businesses paid for her hair, clothes, shoes, dinner, flowers, etc. People made posters and t-shirts. Fans came from all around to support her. I bawled my eyes out reading that article! I was so touched and proud that people would do the right thing and show this girl how important she was, even just as one simple, unknown girl.
When the post-it note revolution happened at my school, one thing I thought and others also commented was something along the lines of "I hope the kid that put the post-it note on her back feels so stupid and so small." I imagined the bitchy girl who submitted Whitney's name for Homecoming Court as a joke, standing in the bleachers with the sickest feeling in her stomach as she watched the beautiful girl beam to the applause.
It's wrong of me to think that way. While I do hope they recognize their mistakes, it's just reversing the bullying back to the bully. The truth about bullies is that they are bullied, usually by their parents. I can't think of anything more sad than that. Peers are mean, but they are temporary. Parents and families, bad home situations that cause bullies - are forever. So many of my students act out in class because they just need attention. They need it so badly they don't even care if it's negative. It's so sad! So sad. I have shed tears over specific students and will probably continue to do so.
The focus we should have is not necessarily scaring or shaming bullies, but helping them feel loved and welcome as well. They should see all those people rallying around the bullied Homecoming Royalty and think "Wow. They care that much about one person. I bet they'd care for me too."
My brother Mitch has been a great example and has posted his dedication to Rachel's Challenge - stemming from one of the girls who died in Columbine (read more here).
These commitments are awesome, and I am accepting the challenge. This has been on my mind a lot and I know it's a good example I can set for these amazing kids.