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Program teaches Pa. Students to stand up to bullies

November 22, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Wearing a pink T-shirt with the words "STOOD UP" across the front, Principal Paul Sick strummed a guitar and led a room full of Falling Spring Elementary School students in song:

"Don't laugh at me, don't call me names,

Don't get pleasure from my pain,

In God's eyes we're all the same,

Some day we'll all have perfect wings,

Don't laugh at me."

"He's good," student Shaqon Baker said after Sick finished the song, written by Peter Yaro of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Friday was Stand Up to Bullying Day at Falling Spring and hundreds of other schools around the world, a movement started at a Canadian high school where two seniors, Travis Price and D.J. Shepherd, took action when a freshman was being verbally abused for wearing a pink shirt, according to the Web site www.standupday.com.

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Price and Shepherd bought pink tank tops from a department store, spread the word on the social networking site Facebook and handed them out to students willing to stand up to the bullies.

Falling Spring is the first school in the Chambersburg Area School District to participate in Stand Up to Bullying Day, said Brett Hill, the district's director of security.

"Our intention is to take this to all the other schools" and create programs to teach students at the elementary and secondary levels, Hill said. Friday's program was presented in two different age-appropriate versions for kindergarten through second grade and for grades three through five, he said.

School violence, such as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, often can be traced to bullying, said Hill, a former Maryland state trooper. Those who are excluded and bullied by classmates can lash out, he said.

"It just builds up and builds up," Hill said. "There's a proper way to vent and let it out."

Guidance counselor Erica Patillo, head teacher Mary Osterman and Hill told the students what constitutes bullying, why some people are bullies and how students should react.

The students also will be able to report bullying by filling out a card and placing it in a "Bully Box," Patillo said.

Children engage in bullying for many reasons -- to give themselves a sense of power, out of jealousy or because they are being bullied by someone, Patillo said. Bullying behavior can include physical and verbal abuse, gossip, intentionally excluding someone from a group or activity and, more recently, "cyber bullying."

"Some people do it so long, they don't even realize what they are doing," Hill said of bullies.

"It's a repeated behavior," Osterman told the students. "If someone calls you a name once, you're not going to fill out a bully card."

Instead of retaliating against a bully, students were advised to be assertive and tell the person to stop, talk to a counselor, or tell an adult or friend. In addition to the "Bully Box," Hill said students might be able to report incidents to school officials over the Internet in the future.

The next observance of Stand Up to Bullying Day will be Feb. 27, Hill said.

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