The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

March 4, 2013

Creating A Change

Students work to decrease bullying

By Justin Jones, Staff Writer

Monday, March 4, 2013 — Two schools across the area have seen students take their own initiative in starting anti-bullying groups.

Both North Stanly Middle School and East Albemarle Elementary are seeing clubs meet regularly to discuss problems with bullying and alternatives to the problem.

East Albemarle

East Albemarle guidance counselor Maria Stine said she was approached about leading an anti-bullying club after an incident that she depicted as “David verses Goliath.”

After meeting both children, one would be hard pressed to find any true feelings of contempt toward another person, but still, they are kids, vulnerable to an occasionable confrontation, she said.

The incident, which occurred sometime during recess last October, began when Reily Winkler started throwing rocks at another fourth grade boy, Kamori Lilly.

Physically speaking, Winkler stands at a size disadvantage to Lilly. But soft-hearted Lilly didn’t seek revenge, and it wasn’t long after when Winkler thought of what he had done, and wanted to make it right.

“Really Reily had a real sense of contrition, that he couldn’t believe he got caught up in it, when he himself had been a victim in the past of bullying,” Stine said.

“He really reflected back on ‘What was I doing?’ He really wanted guidance and direction so that this wouldn’t happen to other kids.”

Winkler said it didn’t take long for him to realize he had made a mistake.

“Well, at first, I wasn’t thinking about if it would have hurt him or not,” Winkler said.

“And then I got home and I was thinking about it cause the whole year last year I was being picked on. So I kind of felt how it would feel for Kamori if that was happening to me.”

Not long before the incident on the playground, Winkler’s cousin had started an anti-bullying club at his school in Florida. With the help of Lilly and Swine, he asked that they start a similar club at East Albemarle.

“And I said ‘Yeah, we can. You bet we can,’” Swine said.

Since that time, Reily and Kamori aren’t the subject of playground fights, but are now seen together each Monday morning and often throughout the week talking to others about the anti-bullying club.

Swine leads the club that meets each Monday morning, helping the kids to get in the right frame of mind for the week. They watch videos via YouTube that are used for springboards into conversations. Throughout the week, their club has different ways they impact the school, often changing bulletin boards and spreading their message of “Be the Change.”  The older students like Reily and Kamori visit classrooms throughout the week, educating the younger classes on the positives of choosing kindness.  

“We call it a club because that makes everybody else want to be in it. It’s not like you’re getting treated for a problem. You’re creating a new ‘in’ crowd. The ‘in’ crowd is now the cool people, and the cool people are the kind people. Not the ones who wear the best clothes or have the best skills on the playground,” Swine said.

“It’s really good to have boys in that role. Boys hear themselves talking about solving problems without violence, it’s going to actually influence their own actions. And they love being teachers.”

While Swine said she’s seen a difference, the students have as well.

“People are not bullying anymore, and they’re being nice to people and helping people out and stuff like that,” Kamori said.

Jalyric Covington, who said that she had been bullied several years before in elementary school, has enjoyed the changes since the group has started.  

“I’m glad Kamori and Riley made up this bullying club, cause as you have a group, you earn friends,” she said.

At East Albemarle, Swine is hopeful that the group will continue to spread the lessons of kindness. As that education spreads, the student’s education may be growing as a part of the club.

“The better the climate in the classroom, the better the grades. That’s the whole point. You can’t concentrate when you feel shame, fear and anger. And that’s what we want to make go away,” Swine said.

North Stanly Middle

Similarly to the progress that’s being made at East Albemarle, North Stanly Middle School is seeing students take responsibility in ending bullying at the school.

After school on Monday afternoons, students gather under the supervision of Katherine Green, the school’s guidance counselor.

Green said she was approached about leading the group by three girls, who all had experienced or witnessed bullying and wanted to voice a stance against it.

“They felt like there was a need to come up with some way of supporting other students who were being picked on and to help prevent it. More of a way to help stop it and to support each other,” Green said.

One of those three girls, Madison McSwain, issued the club’s name, CABZ.

The acronym stands for Comets Anti-Bullying Zone.

McSwain linked the idea of CABZ to an actual taxi-cab.

“Cabs take people from one place to another. They help transition people. And we just want to help transition people from being bullied or seeing it and not knowing what to do, to when they see it happen or they’re affected by it, they know what to do and who to tell,” McSwain said.

During their meetings, the students scatter to different areas of need. Some are designated to do research on bullying, find stories, statistics and other useful information that can be added their CABZ blog.

Another group designed small posters that can be used as artwork while others took pictures and worked on adding them to their video, which they plan to show the school during morning annoucement period sometime in the next two weeks.

The video answers the question of what bullying is, which is then followed by answers such as dishonorable and irresponsible. But it then gives inspiration of what can be done. Teachers and students are seen holding notecards with words as before, although this time words such as “Be brave” and “Love” stand for the answers to combat the bullying issues.

“After a few meetings they’ve boosted their own self confidence,” Green said.

Confidence they’ll use in trying to stop bullying before it starts.

“And you have to be proactive when you do this,” McSwain added.

“We’re trying to stop it before it happens.”