Bullying prevention program helps Talbott Elementary students

Bullying prevention program helps Talbott Elementary students

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - With their superhero capes flying, Talbott Elementary students are taking a stand against bullying.  It's superhero theme day, and even school officials are getting in on the fun way to educate kids about bullying prevention. 

Dressed in his Batman costume, Principal Glen Wolfenbarger explained, "the goal of this program is that one bully is too many bullies."

They're using the Olweus bully prevention program, which requires school officials to undergo extensive training. They take one week to roll out the comprehensive program to students.  Just looking around the halls, students can't miss the message.  "They're telling us that it's very bad," said fifth-grader Jamal Spradling, "and if we get caught bullying there's going to be a lot of consequences."

They're also urging students to intervene - tell a bully to stop, and get an adult.  Jamal himself knows what it feels like to be a bully's target.  "[It made me feel] very bad," said Jamal, "It made me feel like sometimes I wanted to cry." 

Jamal wasn't alone. Cayla Smith, 9, said a bully backed her into a corner in the girls restroom, and continuously teased her at recess. 

"It feels helpless because I don't know what they're going to do and if I can stop it," said Cayla.

But, with the new program's effect, she's beginning to feel safer.  "I know I can go to somebody," she said, "and I know they can stop it right away, and I won't have to do it anymore."

Some of the third graders were encouraged to write letters as if they were writing it to the bully from a victim.  It's heart-wrenching what the kids have said.

One of them, for instance, said, "Dear Bully, I felt sad when you pushed me down. Why did you hit me?"  It goes on to say how bad it made them feel, and telling the bully it's wrong and they want them to stop.

"We've started to see that, not only identifying it here at school, but as some of our students have said, on the bus also," said Principal Wolfenbarger. "Our bus drivers are being trained in that here in the county too. So we are making a true county effort."

The program even teaches adults to change their views about how bullies act, and what they look like.  "It was a surprise to learn that bullies sometimes are the popular people," confided Principal Wolfenbarger, "those people that are really good at athletics, or really intelligent and make good grades."

Just like their artwork on the wall, these kids plan to stand together against bullying.  As Jamal confides, "people who might not have been doing it before, standing up for you, they might do it now since they know what they're supposed to do."

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