Spotlight on bullying: Farwell students learn to stand up to abuse

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LEWISTON — In a one-act play during an anti-bullying assembly at Farwell Elementary School on Friday, sixth-grader Imani Johnson played the role of a student being bullied.

“Oh no … here they come again,” Johnson said, holding her script and a microphone. “What are they going to say now? I wish I could just disappear … man, do I hate school.”

A mean boy called out, “Hey, you loser! Where’d you get those ‘cool’ clothes? The loser store?”

Nick White, playing a second bully, rationalized that he didn’t usually start the bullying, but only went along with it.

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Devon Klemanski acted as a passive bullier. He liked the girl being picked on, but he didn’t want to get involved. He simply laughed along.

John Capalbo pretended to be a disengaged onlooker. It was none of his business. “The less attention I get from those people, the better,” he said. Another student did nothing because he didn’t want to get picked on next. Yet another wanted to do something but didn’t know what.

Suddenly, a superhero wearing “Captain O” on his chest, and a cape and mask, dashed across the gym floor on a scooter.

“I am Captain Olweus and this was a form of bullying!” thundered Grade 5 teacher Andrew Bard. “At our school we do not allow bullying.”

Farwell has four rules, he said. He and the students recited:

“1. We do not bully.

2. We help others who are bullied.

3. We include everyone at school.

4. We tell an adult if someone is getting bullied.”

Principal Linda St. Andre said the assembly was held to kick off a new program, the “Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” to show students what bullying is and how they can stop it.

Bullying will be talked about in school, and acts of kindness will be rewarded, she said. The program has been in the works since last year, and is part of Lewiston-Auburn’s Safe Schools Healthy Students grant.

St. Andre said she wants all students to feel safe, physically, mentally and emotionally. A Farwell student survey last fall showed 80 percent of students witnessed verbal bullying, but they didn’t know what to do about it. Another 15 to 20 percent said they had been bullied.

“If we teach kids at this age to step in and be in control of their own culture and not allow bullying, that will stay with them as they grow older,” St. Andre said.

During the assembly, Farwell cheerleaders performed an anti-bullying cheer. Several students read poems about being hurt, being made fun of or sitting at a lunch table where no one would talk to them. Third-graders sang a rap song encouraging students to be aware of bullying “and be nice.”

After the assembly, students said they had seen kids being picked on. It’s pressure to get involved, said Mariah Dulac. “It’s usually one kid being bullied by a group of kids.”

The training showed students they can step up, she said. “It’s OK.”

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