Students from Strong Elementary School greet the Bikers Against Bullying Friday, Sept. 17. Around 60 riders rode up to Strong Elementary to host the anti-bullying program. Photo courtesy of Brenda Dwiggins

STRONG — In the social-media age where bullying has taken evolved shapes and forms, anti-bullying advocates are searching for new and unique ways to help children understand the impacts of bullying and assure them they are not alone.

One of those alternative methods comes in the form of Bikers Against Bullying, an anti-bullying program that made its way to Strong Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 17.

Bikers Against Bullying was created by Stephen Marois, host of Ridin’ Steel, a television program on Bath Community TV. Host Stephen Marois has been going on rides with other motorcyclists since 2009 to “highlight ‘the biker’ in a positive light” and learn their stories.

Marois created Bikers Against Bullying in 2014 after a student in Maine reached out to Marois seeking help from the Ridin’ Steel community after she explained she was being bullied.

Inspired by her story and the potential impact the biker community could have, Marois began visiting schools across Maine with around 40 to 100 other bikers in tow to fight against bullying and teach the importance of “civility and respect.”

Marois said that bikers relate to the difficulties of bullying, with both childhood experiences and “the stigma” against bikers.

“That whole stigma, I think it still happens in some places,” Marois said. “(Bikers) come from all walks of life … They may have a different idea of what’s fun and freedom to what you do or the average Joe public out there, but they are still really good people.”

“They use motorcyclists because usually we have a reputation of being not kind and considerate and really that’s farther from the truth, for the most part,” said Strong Elementary School Principal Brenda Dwiggins.

Strong Elementary School welcomed the Ridin’ Steel community to host a Bikers Against Bullying program Friday, Sept. 17. About 60 bikers rode in formation to the school and advocated for anti-bullying tactics. Photo courtesy of Brenda Dwiggins

At Strong Elementary, the entire school gathered outside to cheer and welcome Marois with a large group of bikers riding up to the school in formation.

“You can hear the roar of (the students) over three football fields away,” Marois said.

After gathering in the school’s gymnasium, the Bikers Against Bullying community handed out anti-bullying bracelets, which the group creates and pays for through fundraising.

Then, “Bully Buster” Brent Crisci demonstrated the impacts of bullying with “the story of the piece of paper.”

Crisci asks the students “who the toughest kids in school are” and has them compete to demonstrate their toughness by crushing a piece of paper into the smallest ball possible. Afterward, he has them straighten out the paper, “give it back to him the way he gave it to them, and of course they can’t, it’s ripped, it’s torn, it’s full of wrinkles.”

“The message there is when a student comes into school, they have a heart that hasn’t been broken but every time someone picks on them, calls them a name, it gets a scar in it and you can’t repair that, you can’t take it back, it’s there, the damage starts to happen,” Marois said.

Dwiggins said the Bikers Against Bullying program is special because “it’s a unique way to present the social issue of bullying and hopefully it’s not just a video or something that they can watch and then it’s in one ear and out the other.”

Hopefully (the students) will remember the day the motorcyclists came in and talked to us about being safe and how to say ‘no’ and that bullying is not something that we’re going to allow to happen at school,” Dwiggins said. “This year we’re hoping that (the school’s anti-bullying programming) will have a larger impact.”

Marois believe’s the impact of the program’s proof is in the pudding. He recalls how he’s “had many kids come up to me through the years and express to me how they were being a bully to a particular classmate and they didn’t want to be a bully after they heard our presentation and talk.”

“That was a pretty moving moment,” Marois said.

While his message to the entire student body was “about civility and respect,” Marois said he also tries to encourage older students “to be protectors.”

“I try to encourage them to use the strength they have for good, do the next right thing, help those kids struggling and being picked on, be there for them,” Marois said. “Defend the weaker ones. Use your strength to be a leader, not a bully.”

Marois said about 60 bikers showed up to Strong Elementary, some coming from as far as two hours away.

“I’m always surprisingly impressed with the commitment from the motorcycle community,” Marois said. “We’ll go to whatever length it takes to hopefully make a difference and let these kids know they are not alone.”

Comments are not available on this story.