Bullying will stop when everyone in every school believes one simple idea: Bullying is not cool anymore. Bullies thrive on attention, on the respect and admiration of peers. Bullies want to be seen as cool by dominating other kids. Our organization, the Humanity Project, a South Florida-based nonprofit, created an innovative program to help bystander students recognize bullying isn’t cool — and to help stop it.
We work to accomplish this change at the elementary school level, where children are most open to fresh ideas. Our free program, called Anti-bullying Through The Arts, has been given to more than 9,000 children over the past three years. Pre- and post-testing shows the program is effective.
The Humanity Project’s anti-bullying mantra, repeated over and over in different forms to the students, is simple: “Bullying hurts everyone in your school, and it takes everyone to stop it.” It’s an idea that kids understand, especially when shown how and why this is true.
To bring about real change in our schools, it’s essential to touch both the hearts and minds of young students. Our in-school workshops offer all-original rap music and music videos, role-playing and stories. We give each teacher a copy of the book, I Was A Bully . . . But I Stopped, written by at-risk seventh- and eighth-grade students for use in elementary school classrooms. This book provides stories, poetry and suggested class projects, allowing teachers to follow up throughout the school year on the anti-bullying concepts taught during the in-school workshops.
These workshops entertain and educate, reaching a school’s entire student body at once. We believe creating a school culture where bullying is socially unacceptable requires inspiring students to adopt a new attitude about this problem, especially those students who are bystanders.
Our program is among those that help many students begin to view bullying in this new way, to see that bullying behavior isn’t cool. But we also realize that it’s essential for all teachers, administrators and other school employees to consistently reflect this same viewpoint in words and behavior. Until this happens, bullying is likely to remain the significant problem it is in our schools.
Bob Knotts, Dania Beach