High school students are leading bullying prevention efforts
A Berkeley Springs High School Bullying Prevention Task Force is making a difference by combating bullying in the school. Five students are each working on different bullying prevention projects.
Freshman Aidan McDaniel has been working on the issue of bullying with his father Gary McDaniel, Morgan County Schools social worker. He first gave a presentation on bullying when he was 12 and was a presenter at last year’s Morgan County Schools Bullying Prevention Summit.
The father and son team worked together on the first Morgan County Schools bullying prevention video and have made a new video that they wrote with a couple of friends about having the drive to help someone in need.
Aidan McDaniel felt that the awareness from all the bullying prevention programs is really helping and is lessening the level of bullying.
“It’s making it apparent that it’s a really big deal. People know that it’s really an issue and are working on practical ways to solve the issue,” he said.
Sophomore Katie Zakrzewski won first place last year at the state science fair with her project on bullying. This year for her science fair project Zakrzewski is comparing the data to an urban area.
She presented her findings at last year’s Bullying Prevention Summit, comparing the county cyber-bullying survey results and verbal bullying responses. Verbal bullying was the most common form reported, she said.
Zakrzewski is involved in a youth in government branch of the Hi-Y Club, which is the High School YMCA. They create bills on important issues and present them to the West Virginia Student Legislature.
Zakrzewski is introducing a bill that will give bullying a legal definition, ensure that cases are referred to law enforcement and that bullying incidents will remain on the juvenile offender’s record.
Zakrzewski said that last year as a freshman she was too timid to speak out about bullying. She hasn’t really been bullied, but sees it happening on the Internet and with friends.
“I got tired of it and decided to stand up for them,” Zakrzewski said.
She thinks the awareness of bullying has really risen and that when kids see it happening, they stand up for others.
Sharing their stories
Senior Catie Booth said that last year she was bullied at school for four-six months. It was mostly verbal bullying, but turned physical. She became involved with the bullying prevention efforts and spoke at the summit.
She and a boy that bullied her are now friends and have shared their story with others in the hopes that students can work out their differences. Booth is president of the bullying prevention club.
From freshman year until now, bullying is getting recognized and it’s getting better slowly, Booth said. She felt if the high school had peer mediation, that it would stop a lot of it.
Freshman Tiffani Padinha said that the peer mediation they have at Warm Springs Middle School helped a lot.
She has been a member of the West Virginia Youth Leadership organization and has been involved with the Morgan County Partnership with bullying and substance prevention efforts.
Padinha is president of a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter that she began at the high school. The organization focuses on suicide prevention, bullying, under-age drinking, teen dating violence and drug and alcohol abuse.
Padinha has been in some bullying situations at school and has noticed a lot of bullying. Most is on FaceBook and other social networks and some is verbal.
She said she stands up for herself and for others now when she sees bullying occur.
“Things aren’t going to change until people make it change,” Padinha said.
Padinha said when she
started her SADD group, she realized that she could save someone’s life by helping someone.
Around 15 students attend their Bullying Prevention Task Force meetings and about 15 teens are involved in the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group.
Junior Ronnie Stotler got involved with the bullying prevention club after a friend told him about it. He is working on implementing a new online anonymous bullying reporting system that will help school counselors know what areas of concern to be targeting.
Each year at the high school bullying gets better and worse, Stotler said. They still have cliques in school, which makes for drama. They are seeing less verbal bullying, but recently there has been a lot more problems with FaceBook and cyber-bullying.
“We need people to focus on education and not be worrying about being harassed all the time,” he said.
Stotler noted that bullying isn’t fun at all if it happens to you and that it doesn’t make students look cool to do it.
“It actually lowers your stature instead of bringing you up in society,” he said.
“If it happened to you, you wouldn’t like it. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If that happened to you, how you would feel,” Stotler said of bullying.
Booth said that people won’t bully others in front of her now.
You’re changing the life of the person you’re standing up for, Zakrzewski noted.
“It’s like a chain reaction. Let’s switch it to make it the cool thing to do to break up a fight, to stop bullying,” she said.