October 19, 2013 10:31:17 PM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
A local organization is taking a stand against bullying by educating young students.
The Junior Auxiliary of Columbus spent Friday at Columbus Middle School speaking with sixth graders about ways to prevent what has become a national problem. JA's "Stand Up Speak Out" program is a way to get a conversation started between young victims and adults, said Shannon Stafford, chairperson of the program.
"It is a huge nationwide topic," Stafford said. "You turn on the news and you hear a story every day."
October is National Bullying Awareness Month and Stafford said bullying can be verbal, social, emotional or cyber.
"They have Facebook, Twitter, Instant messaging," she said. "It's not just face to face. It's a totally different type of bullying."
By educating middle school students, Stafford said she and her organization hope to stop bullying before it starts.
"It's a very serious subject in schools and this age tends to be kind of a turning point," she said.
On Friday, students watched a video that focused not just on the bully and the target, but the bystander as well.
"We have a Youtube video that shows kids being bullied or picked on just because they're different and then just in subtle ways, at the end, kids would stand up to that act even though they may not be friends with that kid but they want to stop the situation," Stafford said.
She added, "This visit we're focusing more on the bystander. The bystander is the group that we really want to reach the most because they can have the biggest impact on a bullying situation."
Diamond Fisher is a sixth grade student at Columbus Middle School. She said Stand Up Speak Out helped show her what to do if she or a friend is getting bullied.
"People don't know a lot about bullying," the 12-year-old said. "Some people don't know what to do if someone is being bullying because they will just stand there."
Fisher said she and friends have been bullied before but they were reluctant to tell a teacher because they didn't want to be labeled a "snitch."
"If they snitch on them or something, if they tell on them that they did something, then they'll come back to them and bully them," she said.
Fisher said she now knows telling a responsible adult is the only way to stop bullying from continuing.
"Bystanders are the main people in the situation because they can go and tell an adult," she said. "If you just stand there and watch you're encouraging (the bully) and cheering them on."
Fisher, who has had a Facebook account since she was 11, said adults don't understand what it is like to be cyber-bullied because they didn't have social media when they were growing up.
"I think it's a different situation now from what they had," she said. "It's a different time."
Fisher said she feels like girls bully other girls because they are jealous.
"It may be what you're wearing or that they don't have friends so they pick on you because you have better things than they have," she said.
Jenesa Williams, 11, said she also feels bullies are jealous and act out or have a difficult home life. Bystanders, she said, have the power to change the situation.
"Bystanders can be positive or negative," Williams said. "They can either help the person that is being bullied or they can be negative by just watching the person and doing nothing at all. Sometimes the bullies have a hard background and some people don't know that. They try to bully people to think that they're better than them. Since some bystanders cheer them on they think it's cool and they can keep going."
Referencing a teenage girl in Florida who recently committed suicide as a result of bullying, Williams said, "They didn't know her background or her family situation, or what was going on at home. I guess she couldn't take it anymore."
JA will be back at the middle school in January to teach students strategies to deal with bullying.
"We're just trying to raise awareness on bullying and letting kids know that it's OK to stand up," Stafford said.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.