Pop culture is full of books and movies that claim to represent "real" student life. From the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series to the movie "Mean Girls," they all have one thing in common - bullies.
While bullies may make good plot conflict, in reality they are a problem for which schools nationwide seek a solution.
East Grand School District is no different, and the schools have spent the past week focusing on anti-bullying themes. Prevention is the first step, and everyone is taking it seriously.
Songs, skits and pledges
Fraser Valley Elementary is teaming up with the Winter Park Police Department to present targeted assemblies to each grade level. Students will be walked through scenarios of bullying, and its consequences.
Throughout the year, teachers also teach a "Health and Me" unit, which focuses on components of a relationship, how to treat each other, and how to be a friend.
Indian Peaks Charter School focused on themes of honesty, loyalty, leadership and respect. Students brainstormed about what these traits both look and sound like, and participated in bond-building trust exercises.
Granby Elementary worked on building up the school culture. Students in third, fourth and fifth grades learned the school song and sang it together. Principal Jane Harmon also plans to read books with anti-bullying themes aloud at lunch throughout the week.
Granby Elementary fifth-graders also memorized an anti-bullying pledge. As part of an assembly, the fifth-graders presented anti-bullying skits and solutions to the rest of the school. The last few performers ended their skit by reciting the pledge, and the rest of their classmates in back spontaneously stood up and joined in, ending in unison.
"It was quite remarkable to see the rest of the students look back when they heard those other fifth-graders," Harmon said, "and knowing that all of the fifth-graders were saying it together. It's a powerful little piece that they say about bullying."
East Grand Middle School has gotten involved in several popular national anti-bullying movements. Stompoutbullying.org is a national anti-bullying program for kids and teens. According to the website, it focuses on reducing and preventing bullying by educating students, teachers and parents, raising awareness, and promoting peer mentoring programs.
Teaching Tolerance promotes an event called Mix It Up at Lunch Day on Oct. 30, which encourages students to spend their lunchtime with a different group of classmates than they usually would.
"Studies have shown that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice," states the website. "When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away."
Middle Park High School is still riding its wave of success that is the Link Crew program. New this year, the program connects upperclassmen with incoming freshman to promote togetherness, mentorship and friendship.
"We're there to support them," said senior Erin Brown, a Link Leader, of the freshmen. The idea is to keep the newcomers from feeling nervous or being bullied, and to make sure they fit in and have a positive experience.
The Link Crew experience extends year-round, with constant contact between leaders and freshmen.
"It was an excellent experience," freshman Juliet Shams agreed. Her Link Leaders often talk with her after class, and leave notes on her locker.
"It makes me feel super comfortable," she continued, adding with a laugh, "knowing that there's an upperclassman that's not going to shove me in a locker."
Thanks to the Link Crew, this is just a joke to laugh at, and not an uncomfortable reality.