The term ‘bullying’ may not always be properly used by local and national media, but nonetheless it is used more prevalently today than in the past. The Washoe County School District named October its Bullying Prevention Month with schools across the district finding ways to spread awareness about the dangers of bullying, its effects and how it can be combated at schools.
Reed High School got a little head start on its efforts as it showed great support at the Nevada Parents Empowering Parents (PEP) Run, Walk and Roll Against Bullying fundraiser on Sept. 29. That was merely a precursor to the Random Acts of Kindness Month that currently floods the hallway walls of the east Sparks school.
Thursday afternoon students in the school’s Leadership class were busy posting purple and blue hearts along an enormous black poster, each one with a positive message from the donor. Each heart represents a $1 bracelet sold to students, allowing them to deviate from the school uniform Friday, and the money will all be funneled back to Nevada PEP.
“Bullying is an issue that is very common in high schools today and most kids don’t actually realize what is going on until they are in it and their feelings are hurt from it,” Reed High junior Alyssa Inskip said. “Just increasing awareness alone, I think, helps prevent bullying because it helps people realize what is happening and that it needs to stop.”
Reed junior Selena Campana said about 1,200 bracelets had been sold by Thursday afternoon with the goal being 1,500 to give back to Nevada PEP. While selling bracelets, she said she witnessed confused students who were unaware that anti-bullying organizations existed.
“For us, we really need to help people know what is going on and that there are people who are here to help,” Campana said.
Shaw Middle School Lead Counselor Cindy Raymond said because the word ‘bully’ is used so much, some have lost the true meaning of the word.
“There is a difference between someone having a bad day, harassment and bullying,” Raymond said, “And I think often times parents, teachers and students jump right to the bullying term when, in fact, it’s not. If you look at the term of bullying, it is an offense that is happening over and over to the same person.”
Raymond said counselors at Shaw delve into the situation to discover if bullying is being misconceived as harassment. She said further attention is key for her staff in not only solving such cases, but preventing them.
“Investigation is a huge part of these situations because you have to find out what really happened,” she said. “Often times, we three counselors here at school do mediation between students and that resolves it. Sometimes, we have to do mediation a couple of times.
“The big thing for us is to keep following up with all the students. You have to revisit it. You can’t just do it for one month or one week or one lesson. The kids need much more than that because they are kids. In math you keep coming back to a specific concept, and you have to do that with their emotional and social needs as well.”
Shaw will be doing its part during Bullying Prevention Month and it hosted a forum for students and parents on cyberbullying Thursday evening. Raymond said cyberbullying is a branch of the overall act that her staff is looking to prevent year-round, which does not come easy.
“Facebook can be lethal to kids,” Raymond said. “The main questions we get from parents come when the act has already happened. The parents or teachers may see the end of it when someone shows them a text or picture, but we are trying to get to the preventative side.
“We want the students and parents to be armed with online safety tips and ways to monitor where their children go online. The reality is it takes constant attention.”
Reed High students agreed, saying that many students do not understand how far words can travel through the various forms of cyberbullying, including social media, text messaging and others.
“You are able to say something without a face,” Inskip said. “You can say something to someone and you don’t have to see them or their reaction. You can say whatever you want.”
Reed’s Leadership class formed a new Random Acts of Kindness Committee, which will focus on awareness of ways to use face-to-face communication and social media for positive words.
“I feel that it is a lot easier to advertise doing good things,” Campana said, “And by us doing different ‘kindness’ things and anti-bullying, it helps get good things on social media. You can reach more people through those channels.”
Raymond said Shaw will continue challenging the idea of bullying at the middle school level, empowering students not to be bystanders and to instead show respect. Given the response from the Reed student body, it is working.
“I really knew to expect it when I got to high school,” Reed sophomore Journey Artis said. “Teenagers can be influenced more by their friends than their parents sometimes, and as soon as it is OK to do something in front of their friends, then there is nothing stopping them.
“That is what I love about Leadership because people see all of us saying “don’t do it,” and they see that you don’t have to act that way around school.”