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Getting tough on bullying
By: ANGELA CABEZAS Review Staff firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
The statistics are hard to ignore — on any given day, nearly 160,000 students nationwide miss school due to the fear of being bullied.
Also, though 60 percent of all middle school students say they’ve been a target of bullying, only one out of three reports the behavior to an adult, according to the Ephrata Area School District.
Facts found on the website of the National Education Association, were shared on the morning announcements at the Ephrata Middle School as part of the Youth Peace Council’s stand against bullying. Other anti-bullying efforts included hanging educational posters on doors and in hallways, serving pink cookies in the cafeteria, and dressing in pink on Nov. 18, International Anti-Bullying Day, aka Pink Day.
Pink Day, a world-wide anti-bullying campaign, began in a high school in Nova Scotia, Canada after a freshman boy was picked on for wearing a pink shirt to school. Two senior boys decided to send a message that such bullying would not be tolerated, and they did so by showing up at school with pink shirts of their own.
The boys’ display inspired others across the globe, and today more than 2,200 schools in 25 different countries take part in Pink Day. Participating students and faculty wear pink shirts to school in order to send a loud, non-confrontational message of resistance to bullies; identify themselves to victims as a source of support willing to help; draw attention to the effects of bullying; and stimulate passive bystanders into action.
Both the middle and high schools in Ephrata participated in the campaign this year, spurred on by each school’s respective Youth Peace Council (YPC).
"YPC is a group of students who come together to try to help out not only the school but the community as well," said junior Paige Hamaker, president of the high school council. "My objective for this year is to create the whole ripple effect so we can get as much done as we can and help as many people as we can."
In addition to wearing pink and serving cookies, YPC members at both schools created short videos to be aired on the morning announcements. The high school video is also posted online at easdpa.org/ehs/highlights/2011-12/YPCVideo.html.
"We made these signs that said, ‘It happens here’ and ‘Stand up,’ and we had some facts (about bullying) on some of the signs," said Hamaker. "We held them up throughout the school, all over, and then we put the short clips together and added music."
"(The video) is to raise awareness and give young people who may be victims more courage, more opportunities to come forward and share with someone what’s happening," said Stephanie Gingrich, Ephrata School District’s director of communications. "It also raises awareness for those who may be involved in bullying and may not realize that’s what they’re doing. They may think they’re joking around with somebody or may not realize that someone on the receiving end may find it hurtful."
Gingrich and the rest of the district’s administrators and faculty support YPC’s anti-bullying efforts and are fully behind them.
At Ephrata Middle School, for example, students and staff use bi-weekly classroom meeting times to start a dialogue on how they can help reduce bullying and to reinforce topics such as assertiveness, self-confidence, positive leadership and tolerance. Teachers also sign pledges and post them in their classrooms to demonstrate the adults’ commitment to addressing all reported incidents of bullying.
Similar efforts are being undertaken at the high school as well. Freshmen and sophomores will attend an assembly focused on cyber-bullying, and business and computer classes regularly incorporate anti-bullying information into their lessons.
Additionally, the district provides students with an anonymous online form to report incidents of bullying, which is defined in District Board Policy 249 as "an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act or series of acts directed at another student or students … that is severe, persistent or pervasive and has the effect of doing any of the following: substantially interfering with a student’s education, creation of a threatening environment, or substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school."
Ephrata’s middle and high school Youth Peace Councils took this anti-bullying stance, along with their Nov. 18 video footage, and shared it with other councils at a monthly YPC meeting held at the Lancaster IU-13 building.
"We wanted to show other schools what we’re doing," Hamaker explained.
"Bullying is not unique to this area," Gingrich added. "It’s not a Lancaster County issue, not a state issue — it’s going on everywhere, nationwide. Students are encouraged not just to stand up for themselves but for others, whether they see it in a classroom, in the hallway, on the bus, in the parking lot, and that’s what the YPC students focused on in the video. It happens everywhere. Be willing to stand up against it."
In addition to their work to stop bullying, the Youth Peace Council also addresses other school and community issues.
"We did Pennies for Leukemia, where we collected pennies and spare change at lunch, and then we donated them to the Leukemia Foundation," said Hamaker. "We also joined up with Leo Club and sold mustaches for No-Shave November — which spreads awareness for prostate cancer — and we did a coat and boot drive for people who were affected by the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee."
"These are students who are concerned with what is going on in the school," said Rosemary Minder, guidance counselor and YPC faculty advisor at Ephrata High School. "Our officers have taken the bull by the horns, and they have done what they’re supposed to be doing. I’m their advisor, but they actually are the ones coming up with the ideas as to what they’d like to see done here at Ephrata High School." More BULLYING, page A6