One school's anti-bullying idea: 'No Name Calling Day'
A Massachusetts elementary school lobbied successfully to get 'No Name Calling Day' written into state anti-bullying law.
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Society sends mixed messages. “American Idol” judges banter disrespectfully. The mother of one of the teens accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, a South Hadley, Mass., sophomore who later committed suicide, said in a local news report that her daughter didn’t physically assault Phoebe, but that the two had exchanged words. “They’re teenagers. They call names,” she said.Skip to next paragraph
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“So many people say ... ‘kids will be kids,’... but we have to take a strong stand that teasing is wrong.... Teasing can escalate into bullying,” Freedman says.
When students learn to defuse teasing, they’re less likely to become victims of bullies, who often shop around for the biggest emotional reaction, Freedman explains.
For instance, instead of feeling bad about themselves if they’re teased for being short, she helps children learn that there’s nothing wrong with being shorter than others, and that they can embrace their appearance.
“Sometimes by just acknowledging it, it defuses the tease,” she says.
And they can speak up when they witness hurtful comments. In one school where Freedman worked, some fifth-grade girls told her a new boy was being teased by a group of popular boys. She had lunch with more than 20 concerned bystanders and helped them pluck up the courage to step in and tell the boys to stop when they witnessed the verbal bullying. She also talked with the boys and their parents. The situation improved dramatically.
The Quashnet club timed its activities in January to correspond with national No Name-Calling Week, promoted since 2004 by a range of educational groups and inspired by the novel “The Misfits,” by James Howe. Educators report that “name-calling and bullying do decrease once this conversation is started,” says Daryl Presgraves, spokesman for the No Name-Calling Week Coalition and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in New York.
Reminders still line the halls at the Quashnet School: Colorful student drawings declare “No place for hate” or “Don’t diss – it’s mean.”
The focus is on positive language, not simply what students shouldn’t say, notes K-Kids adviser Jane Emery. In the gym, a giant banner bears the motto the club came up with to encourage people to think before they speak: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it helpful?”