Anti-bullying initiative explores disturbing youth trend


Photo Gallery: Anti-bullying program at KidZone in Pittsfield

Bullying doesn't take a holiday.

During last week's school vacation break, education outreach coordinator Nakeida Bethel-Smith visited KidZone Child Care & Educational Center Inc. to facilitate an anti-bullying workshop for 29 students in grades 2 through 6.

Bullies tend to be followers of negative thoughts and emotions. The staff at KidZone says it wants to support its students in being leaders of proactive and positive responses to bullying.

KidZone Director Susan Robert said the "Black Out Bullying Day" was organized by assistant director Sharon Connors, to help launch a new initiative to train staff and educate students and parents on the issue in an ongoing, year-round way. Many students wore black clothing for the occasion and they were also given colorful wristbands with anti-bullying messages printed on them.

"There's so much bullying going on among kids everywhere, and a lot of them still think bullying just happens when someone gets beat up. But it's so much more," Robert said.

Connors said that the center has been ordering materials like classroom books, activity sheets and curriculum guides. She said the center's also planning to produce a new parent handbook which addresses issues with bullying.

"Today's program focuses on the older kids, but we also gave today a guidebook on anti-bullying curriculum to our preschool teachers because unfortunately, you see it [at that age level] too," said Connors.

Bethel-Smith first led students through a warm-up activity and then had them work in small groups on a worksheet that defined different categories of bullying, from emotional bullying to verbal to physical to cyberbullying.

During student presentations, the kids offered different reasons as to why someone might bully another person:

  • Because they're being bullied themselves.
  • Because they might want attention to gain popularity.
  • Because they might have something upsetting happening in their own lives and feel the need to take it out on others.
  • Because they don't know how to control their anger.
  • For payback or in retaliation for some wrong that was done to them.

"Thinking about bullying and how to respond should be an ongoing part of your daily routine," Bethel-Smith told the students. She encouraged them to think about whether they've been bullies themselves and how to maintain self-control while also taking on the responsibility to help others who may be victims of bullying.

She also encouraged teachers and students to not label students reporting an incident of bullying as tattletales.

"When you report a true incident of bullying you should actually be labeled as a leader who's not going to take, who's not going to stand for someone being bullied. You should be commended," Bethel-Smith said.

Other components of the workshop included student-created skits about bullying, and an activity where students went around to each other sharing snacks and compliments.

"If a person is being bullied it can affect all of us," said Joseph "Jojo" Davis, a fourth-grader. He said he thought the workshop was a good idea to hold for students, " so people can remember to follow rules and not be bullied."

Bethel-Smith said that though students understand the rights and wrongs, the real challenge lies in standing up against bullying every day.

About 10 minutes after the workshop, the students got ready to go into their track and field program and activity periods.

After complimenting students on their good decision-making, group leader and dance team coach LaTonia Morton reminded students to keep up the supportive spirit in the gymnasium, a typically chaotic space.

"You've done a good job today. Please make sure you keep that up," she said.


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