As the problem of bullying grows in classrooms and Internet chatrooms nationwide, Cazenovia Middle School Guidance Counselor Jennifer Glasgow is ensuring the issue won’t become a concern for district students.
During the week of Sept. 14, she gave multiple presentations regarding how to identify and avoid bullying, to pupils in fifth, sixth and seventh grades.
“Everybody has bullying in their life, it’s an issue everywhere. I don’t think we have a problem with it here at the middle school, this is just more of a proactive approach to the issue,” Glasgow said. “We want to give the kids information, skills and strategies that will help them if they encounter bullying. By updating every single student in the building with a message against bullying, we’re hoping to stop any problems before they even start.”
During the week, fifth-grade students were given presentations titled “How to be Bully-free,” sixth-grade students were presented “Be an Active Bystander” and seventh-graders learned about “Relational Aggression.” Each presentation dealt with different aspects of bullying and offered solutions for conflict resolution and avoidance. Glasgow hoped to instill a sense of pride and unity into the students, teaching them how to deal with aggression from bullies.
The Cazenovia Central School District recently adopted policies on bullying and cyberbullying in their handbook. Parents are urged to discuss bullying with their children, in order to educate, as well as evaluate whether their child may be a bully. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, an estimated 50 percent of children are bullied at some point during their primary education, with 10 percent of those students experiencing bullying on a regular basis.
Glasgow’s presentations are aimed at instilling a sense of pride and unity into the children, informing them about three main types of bullying: physical aggression, intimidation and verbal aggression.
Students also learned that not every injustice they may experience while at school is bullying, as it is defined as a reoccurring conflict intended to cause mental distress and/or bodily harm. While characteristics of intimidation can be both physical and verbal, physical aggression includes hitting, kicking, spitting and shoving; while verbal aggression is recognized as constant taunting, mocking, teasing and name-calling.
For each grade, Glasgow had prepared an extensive PowerPoint display for students, complete with video clips that illustrated bullying in school, even Lady Gaga discussing her own experiences with bullies.
Although the pop star’s story was sad and sincere, the clip that seemed to resonate most with children was one made by a former victim of bullying. Together with her newfound friends, the young girl created probable scenarios and recited a number of creative “one-liners” designed to quickly dispatch bullies.
“The students were glued to what was being said and to what was being shown during the video clips. It was quite a powerful means of bringing this topic to the forefront of our students’ thinking,” said fifth-grade teacher Amy Conley. “Knowing some strategies for working through it and knowing that they can and should let an adult know, are key to getting the help students will need if they find themselves faced with this situation.”
After the presentation, students are then dismissed back to their regular classes, and each grade is assigned a different book to read. The writings, which are read for the following two weeks, further educate students on bullying and aim to deter future conflicts. Fifth-graders are assigned “Shredderman: Secret Identity” by Wendelin Van Draanen, sixth-grade students read “Bystander” by James Preller and seventh-graders read “The Truth About Truman School” by Dori Hillestad Butler.
To learn more about the school district’s code of conduct and behavioral policies, visit their website, at caz.cnyric.org. Burton Street Elementary can be reached at 655-1325, Cazenovia Middle School can be reached at 655-1324 and the high school office can be reached at 544-1370.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.