It happens in the little town of Harvard, MA, at Hildreth Elementary School, just as it happens in every school, everywhere. “People get teased about how they look, and what they do,” says 5th grader Maggie Gill.
According to a recent department of Justice study, the number of kids who have reported being bullied is down from 22% in 2003 to 15% in 2008. But ask the fifth graders in Ms. Keith’s class, even if it isn’t being reported, it’s happening.
“Like everyday people go on the bus, and they get bullied, and they go into recess and people might not even know it, and they’re bullying them,” Rebekah Lindsey says.
When Ms. Keith’s class read an article in “TIME Magazine for Kids” giving tips on fighting back against bullying, the kids said they thought the advice experts gave on telling on the bully, were way off.
“The articles are always telling the kids to involve parents, teachers, any other adult, bus drivers if it’s happening on the bus, and the kids emphatically agree that does not work. It actually, in turn, makes the bullying worse,” says 5th grade teacher, Reenie Keith.
“Those were like the same tips that we kept on getting told over and over again, so they didn’t really help at all, we kept on trying them, it just got worse,” Eric Xing says.
So these kids started researching to come up with a real way for kids to fight back against bullying. With the help of their guidance counselor, Christine Reale, they looked into programs their school was using, recommended guidelines by the state, along with a program called “Bullies to Buddies”, which they found to be the most useful, and these kids got to work.
“They’ve developed a website, a podcast, they’ve written a play, they’ve done several role plays,” Ms. Keith says.
The kids have targeted the areas where bullying happens most, at recess, on the bus, and in the hallways, coming up with ways to teach others their way of dealing with bullies, based on their own real life experiences.
When someone is taunting you, these kids say, agreeing with the bully can sometimes thrown them off, also try asking the bully a question, student Nick Evans says ,”ask the bully why, act like he’s giving you information like he says ‘You’re stupid’ and you’re like, ‘yeah, I’m just sort of wondering why you think that, it will just sort of help me figure out what I can work on.”
The class also agrees, showing emotion is a no-no.
“Most bullies are looking for a reaction from you, and so once you don’t show that reaction, they just run out of words to say,” Harry Carley says.
The kids have even taught their methods to other grades in the school, and it’s working.
“During parent teacher conferences, the first grade teacher received comments in the class from three parents saying, you know, my child is using this, it’s helpful,” says guidance counselor Christine Reale.
These kids are encouraged about what they’ve done and want to teach what they’ve learned to kids all over the state and beyond, “their goal is to get it out worldwide, they don’t want it to stop in their classroom, or in their school,” Ms. Keith says.
“It made me want to go forth with it and inspire other people, and make them and help them to stop bullying and if they do get bullied, to help them handle it, and it felt really good,” says Joey Calabrisi.
After all, these kids say the real experts are kids like them, who know what it’s like to be bullied, and are doing something about it.