Eighth graders talk with middle school kids about cyber-bullying
Eight Warm Springs Middle School eighth graders are making a difference by presenting the results of a local cyber-bullying survey to middle school students with guidance counselor Kristina Maslowski. They are also talking with teens about the issues.
The survey was taken by Morgan County Schools students in grades six-12 last year and again by middle school students this fall. Maslowski trained the eight students to do survey classroom interventions and role-playing.
The survey asked students about sexting, their privacy settings on social networking sites, personal standards for material they posted, how they dealt with negative remarks and how they treat others and how they like to be treated. Kids were very interested in what their peers had to say on the survey, Maslowski said.
A team of three students do the PowerPoint presentations of survey results. They ask students how they feel about the responses. The group has gone into all sixth grade classes and several seventh grade classrooms. The students will talk with every middle school class before the end of the year.
Maslowski asked the eight of them to do the survey presentations, said eighth grader Tristan Kelly. What was important was that “they were going to be stopping bullying once and for all.”
Hearing it from their peers and not from an adult was important. Kaitlyn Hashem thought it would hit a lot more kids at this age because of what they’re seeing on Facebook and other sites.
Lin Chen felt that if kids were in a bullying situation, that they could show them what to do to stop bullies. Some don’t know what to do if they are bullied. Most of the kids don’t want to talk to adults. They want to solve problems by themselves.
“They may learn from the survey what they can do and when to go to adults,” he added.
They found that some kids didn’t have the right privacy settings online and they didn’t realize it until their survey presentations, Hashem said.
They were encouraging kids to not just stand there and do nothing when they see bullying but to say something to an adult or counselor, Kendall White said.
During their presentations, at first kids were really quiet and didn’t want to say anything, but then they talked a lot, Rhett Beddow said.
It was good to see that most students chose the best answers to the survey questions, Chase Bowers said.
Kennedy Kearney expressed appreciation for Maslowski starting their group.
“I’m having a lot of fun and it’s for a good cause,” Kearney said.
Garrett Lord said that getting in front of kids helps their social skills.
A bad problem
“We’re really trying to stop bullying because it’s a bad problem,” he said.
Most of the group used Facebook, where there was some bullying. Kennedy said it was mostly girl drama. Hashem said some girls said things online because they didn’t want to have personal confrontations.
Bowers said there was a lot of name-calling at the school and felt there was more verbal bullying than cyber-bullying. There was still some physical bullying.
The group felt that the awareness of bullying has been raised. Sometimes they saw kids intervening when bullying occurred, Kendall White said.
The teens felt the experience of doing the survey presentations has empowered them to speak up when they see bullying. All encouraged other students to get involved in the peer-to-peer discussions about bullying and in making a difference.
Maslowski said since the students have been presenting the survey results that she has seen an increase in students reporting things they’re seeing. Kids are feeling more comfortable doing so.
Discipline referrals down
Discipline referrals at the school are down and students are more aware of bullying, she said.
In the 2003-2004 school year, there were 166 discipline referrals for fights, 379 referrals for insubordination and 101 referrals for bullying/harassment.
In 2010-2011, those referral numbers dropped to 46 for fights, 63 for insubordination and 17 for bullying/harassment.
Morgan County Schools social worker Gary McDaniel said they are resolving a lot of situations before they reach the discipline referral stage.
Classroom lessons are teaching kids empathy and addressing apathy. Other strategies focus on social skills, anger management and self-regulation and encourage bullying bystanders to get involved, McDaniel said. Kids are wearing “Stand Up for Others” bracelets.
A lot of kids are stepping up to help by going to an adult or by saying something to the bully to disrupt the situation, Maslowski said.
On the survey, they asked kids what they would call someone that stood up for them. Students used terms like hero, friend, kind, caring and brave.