Watersmeet school looks to 'STOMP Out Bullying'
WATERSMEET — One of Watersmeet Township’s school colors, gold and blue, will play an important part on Oct. 6 in raising awareness of bullying.
The Nimrods will drop the gold and wear blue as part of a worldwide “Blue Shirt Day” to raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying.
Blue Shirt Day is scheduled each year on the first Monday of October, which is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month.
April Syria, guidance counselor at the Watersmeet school, said this is the sixth Blue Shirt Day but the first year the district is working with the STOMP Out Bullying organization, which first created the worldwide project.
“By coming together in large numbers and wearing blue on Oct. 6, we can show our support for these efforts on both the local and global levels,” Syria said. “The Watersmeet Township School District has utilized a bully-proofing curriculum in the classrooms for several years. This year we are partnering with STOMP Out Bullying and using their fresh, hands-on approach to work with the students in our district. We feel everyone benefits when we work together in both the school and the community.”
The district’s handbook contains policies on bullying and how it’s handled, Syria said, but staff choose to “focus on helping students self-advocate for themselves and assist others in distress.
“It’s when no one steps forward to stop bullying that the fire is fueled for bullying to continue,” she said. “That also means providing assistance to the bullies themselves so that they can learn how to better handle their emotions and see that there are more positive ways to garner attention.”
Syria said bullying is a learned behavior and life for everyone will improve if that behavior is replaced with more positive actions.
“In tandem with that, our school is also participating in Safe and Civil Schools, a program that provides training to handle behavior concerns with effective classroom management techniques,” Syria said. “Bullying prevention is an ongoing process, one we feel is important to the growth of our students as contributing members of society now and in the future.”
According to STOMP Out Bullying’s website, the project’s parent organization, Love Our Children USA, has been the leading group fighting all forms of violence and neglect against children in the U.S. since 1999.
According to the project’s website, it also looks to educate people against homophobia, racism and hatred, as well as decrease school absenteeism, and deter violence in schools, online and in communities across the country.
The project also aims to educate parents to keep open communication with their children and look for signs of bullying behavior, as well as teaching “school administrators across the country, who have swept this issue under the rug for far too long.
“Today’s students are at risk, and that risk grows more and more every day as the popularity of the Internet increases,” the website continues.
Watersmeet’s high school girls’ volleyball team is also scheduled for a matchup against Mercer, Wis., on Oct. 6 and Syria said the bullying awareness will continue at the game, as well.
“Not only are we all wearing blue during the school day, we invite everyone attending our girls’ volleyball game that evening to wear blue, as well,” she said. “For example, the visiting team will be wearing blue ribbons in their hair to show their support. We hope the fans participate in Blue Shirt Day by wearing blue, too.”
Though October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month, Syria said the district’s staff works year round to provide information in an effort to reduce bullying through ongoing “bully-proofing” lessons in class, and by bringing in speakers to address the issue.
Last year during bullying awareness day, the school provided a mobile IMAX theater experience for students, where bully-proofing videos were shown.
“Additionally, we are in the process of putting together a mentoring program that includes adults from both the school and Lac Vieux Desert to work with small groups of students throughout the school year on a regular basis,” Syria said. “The intent of which is to show students that there are adults they can count on to help them as they grow into caring and responsible adults themselves.”
Syria said every school essentially has to deal with some type of bullying issues, whether it be between students, adults or a combination of the two.
“By being proactive, we have reduced the number of bullying incidents in our district, a trend we want to see continue,” Syria said. “Schools have to be a safe place to be for both students and staff, and we strive to make it just that — a safe haven.”
For more information on STOMP Out Bullying, or to find out how you can get involved, visit stompoutbullying.org.