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Program tackles bullying
Thursday, March 14, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
A “student” sat alone at a lunch table, solemnly looking down as he ate his crackers. He was being ridiculed by several “students” sitting together at a nearby table and eating pizza.
The insults were relentless: “Nerd boy, what ya eating?” “Crackers and water?” “That’s cheap food.” “Didn’t your mom give you money for lunch?”
One of the pizza eaters threw something at the lone eater before the skit ended. (It was a balled-up piece of paper, representing food.)
The skit was part of a bullying prevention program put on by MHC After 3 Magna Vista High School students and leaders for more than 45 preschoolers through fifth-graders at the MHC YMCA’s after-school program at Drewry Mason Elementary School on Wednesday.
“To even act that out hurt my feelings,” Erica Penn told the children in the audience after the skit. Penn, who played one of the ringleaders of the pizza eaters, is the site director of MHC After 3, an after-school program, at Magna Vista.
“Was that (the bullying) right?” Penn asked children in the audience, who responded with a chorus of nos.
“How were we bullies?” Penn asked, and various children said the boy had been bullied when he was made fun of and things were thrown at him.
Among the other points made by Penn and Tynell Hairston, who played the victim, were that not everyone likes pizza, maybe the victim wanted to eat alone, and not everyone can afford to buy lunch at school.
Hairston, group leader of MHC After 3 at Magna Vista, asked the children if they know what less fortunate means. He explained that some families have less money than others and can’t afford to spend as much.
School lunch may be some students’ last meal of the day, Savannah Gwynn pointed out. She is site director for the Y’s after-school program at Drewry Mason.
Children don’t know what other children’s home situations are, Penn said. She told the children at various points in the program not to make fun of others because of how much money they have, what they wear, how they look or the color of their skin, among other things.
“Be nice to everybody,” Penn told the children. “You want people to treat you, how?
“Like you want to be treated,” Penn said as children in the audience joined in.
Other skits involved a student being tripped and harassed before a helpful student intervened; a group of girls following and ridiculing a girl who was wearing shoes they thought were cheap and unfashionable; and a group of boys threatening and stealing a lone boy’s lunch money.
After the skit about the lunch money theft, Hairston asked the children, “That’s against the what?”
“The law,” many children responded.
“If you steal you can go where?” Hairston asked.
“Jail,” many children said.
Hairston also pointed out that not only were the bullies in the skit mean to the victim and stole his lunch money, but they deprived him of lunch that day.
Penn also used that skit to teach the children about resisting negative peer pressure. She asked the children to imagine that one of the three boys involved in committing the theft knew it was wrong but was pressured into taking part so that his two companions would continue being his friends.
Penn told the children that if they ever have to choose between losing a friend or taking part in something they know is wrong, they should say, “Oh well, I have other friends.”
The MHC After 3 group also taught the children in the Y program about various types of bullying, such as verbal, physical, indirect (annoying or excluding from games) and cyber bullying, as well as tips on bullying prevention and reporting. One of the prevention tips was forming a group of friends to try to intervene in a positive way when they see bullying.
“Tell your friends it’s not cool to bully,” Hairston told the children at the end of the program before leading them in a chant about not bullying.
The program was informative and fun, several children in the audience said afterward.
“Don’t take people’s money, and don’t judge people’s shoes if they don’t have money for a different type of shoes,” first-grader Ryan DiMingo said when asked what he learned. He also learned that if he sees bullying “to tell a teacher, the principal or my parents or my grandparents.”
For Kendall Motley, lessons included not to hurt people and not to judge people on what they wear or the type of houses they live in, she said. Kendall, who is in the fourth grade at Rich Acres Elementary, and Nick Page, a fifth-grader at Drewry Mason, also said they learned not to pressure people to get them to do something bad.
Nick also said not to judge people on what they eat or for not having a lot of money.
Joseph Boaz, a second-grader at Drewry Mason, said he learned about cyberbullying.
He once saw a real-life lunch-money theft, he added.
Bullying is a significant problem in Henry County, and cyberbullying (including texting, emails and social media) is by far a bigger problem than face-to-face bullying, Sheriff Lane Perry said in a phone interview Wednesday night.
“Sometimes people will say (derogatory) things face to face, but in the sense of security at home, (people) will write atrocious things about somebody else,” Perry said.
The first time the victim of cyberbullying reads the derogatory message is upsetting, but going back and reading it again and again “it can become haunting to them,” Perry said.
Cyberbullying probably was the primary factor in the suicide of a local teenager a couple years ago, Perry added.
“The youth need to make the determination not to write derogatory comments on these sites. Parents are the first line of defense in preventing this,” Perry said.
He encourages parents to monitor their children’s emails and their use of social media sites and phones. “If they are monitored by parents, it can greatly reduce a lot of it,” Perry said of cyberbullying.
MHC After 3 Magna Vista students who took part in the skits and program at Drewry Mason included Malik Martin, Micheal Hylton, Naomi Hightower, Tamera Price, Miranda Hylton, Tayshiem Harper and Marquis Reynolds.