Anti bullying rally kicks-off in Joliet

Joliet School held its first Annual ‘Not In Our School” anti-bullying program last week when high school students presented a series of exercises and a video to grades 1st through 5th.

George Warbur ton, physical education teacher, opened proceedings, thanking Julie Unger, President of Parents in Action for donating t-shirts, a pizza party and for the special gift of an anti-bullying wristband for all students. Warburton also thanked parent Debby Schenk for spearheading the project.

Not In Our School is an affiliate with Not In Our Town, an anti-bullying, anti-hate organization that has been in existence for several years.

A total of 18 high school students volunteered to lead the program, and explained what bullying is, why people are bullies, and also offered advice to students to stop bullying if they see it.

The high schoolers asked the younger children how would they stop a bully. Several answers included, telling the bully to knock it off, avoiding them, and telling a teacher.

They then played a game to emphasis that victims are not alone before watching a video to encourage bystanders to step in and help the victim in a bullying incident.

The 1st-5th graders then split into groups to write positive notes and place them in pigeonholes on three large boards that will be placed in the hallway of the school. The purpose behind this exercise is to offer some encouragement and hope to a student who is having a tough time by going to these boards and picking out a note to cheer them up. The student is also encouraged t o replace the note wi th another note of encouragement.

At the end of the program, Warburton reiterated that it is the goal of Joliet High School to provide “a safe environment”, and to let the students know you are not alone.

“There is always support and we are here to help,” he said.

He added that to help another in distress from a bully “is going to be hard but if you step in, you will have a friend for life.”

“Bullying does not happen in our school. We are here for each other. We want to make sure you are part of this program and when you get to high school you can tell those 1st-5th graders ‘Not In Our School.’

Unger thought the program was a “great start” and would like to see further programs to cover middle and high school.

Bet sy Suckow, ar t teacher, was “excited” to see the boards with the positive notes up in the hallway.

Schenk who belongs to TAP 365, an awareness project, said it was “very gratifying, and from my kids’ own school.”

“I sort of spearheaded this. I had two boys who went to this school, and I see a need for this type of thing. I talked about it two years ago. For a long time there has been a notion in Montana that bullying is part of growing up and I think we have to challenge that, and if we send people out with the message that this is not okay, then we change a lot of things,” said Schenk. “I love the message today about the bystanders, because watching bullying can be just as much bullying. For kids to know it is the right thing to do, to stand up and not watch it, that is really empowering for young people. To say that what you are doing is not okay, it takes the power away from the bullies. It doesn’t become cool any more to be a bully.”

Many o f the high schoolers that took part said they wished there had been a program in place when they started school but are confident that it will help resolve issues in the future.

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