BURILLVILLE — For students at Burrillville Middle School, “being mean stinks.”
Hundreds of students in Grades 7-8 have been taking part in Bullying Prevention Month activities this month as part of a local school campaign to spread the word about bullying prevention.
Led by school counselor Pamela Connors, each of the students have taken the anti-bullying promise in which they pledge to wipe out bullying. “Bullying is cruel. Bullying hurts. Bullying will not be tolerated,” the pledge says in part.
“These activities have really united our school,” says Connors.
“The program helps people who have never been bullied or who are bystanders open their eyes to what some kids go through each day, and gives them courage to do something about it,” added Grade 7 student Jill Cash.
Bullying Prevention Month activities kicked off at the school on Oct. 14 and will culminate with an anti-bullying pep rally on Nov. 21. Activities this past month included a Hat Day, writing contests, and a BMS bullying prevention booth at Broncopalooza, among other things.
A pizza party for each winning advisory writing contest will be held on a date to be announced and the contest winners will have their pieces displayed around the school. The overall winners will have their pieces made into a wall mural.
The winners are:
Come Together 1St Place (Mrs. Sally Curtis’ Advisory): Annina Caniff, Fate Pollard, Abigail Elliot, Angel Cogean, Jeremy Denis, Savannah Derosiers, Ryan Cook, Miranda Caron, Conner Chambers, Connor Daignault, Sam Chenot, Kalasia Daigle.
* Rise Up! 2nd Place (Mrs. Rosanna Cavanaugh’s Advisory): Casey Bowers, Abbie Branagan, Kevin Brosious, Allison Bussell, Daniel Chamberlin, Savannah Champagne, Ashlee Dennett, Trisha Deroy.
* Stand Up and Shout 3rd Place (Mrs. Helen Pereira’s Advisory): Danielle Tominsky, Sheridan Tupper, Isabelle Vincent, Liana Vitello, Jonathon Wiik, James Wilson, Matthew Wilson, Josie Young, Ashley Yuszczak, Jacob Zazza.
“Bully prevention awareness is making BMS a better place by teaching students all the different aspects of bullying and how its effects relate to academics and all parts of school life,” says student Zack Durand, Grade 8.
Grade 7 student Alley Simpson said, “The goal of our program is to spread the word about bullying prevention, not only in our school, but to other schools and the community as well.”
“I believe that this year we will be able to help lower the number of bullying incidents because we’re letting students know that bullying is not ok at BMS,” added Billy Robinson, Grade 7.
Over the past year, the Burrillville Middle School has taken an active role in combating bullying.
The same day Massachusetts lawmakers last year unanimously approved a sweeping measure to crack down on school bullying, a contingent of Burrillville Middle School students met with Ponaganset High School students to discuss anti-bullying and leadership strategies. The Burrillville students, members of a newly-formed peer leadership group called A Better Community (ABC), visited Ponganset High School to get some practical advice from Ponaganset’s peer-leadership group called Students Taking Action for Realistic Situations (STARS). Ponaganset’s STARS program, and its approximately 100 student members, has been in place for two years. They mentor underclassman to promote a healthy and positive school-wide environment.
“Bullying Prevention month is during October, so the messages our program is sending to students helps reinforce what the ABC Club does throughout the school year,” says Grade 7 student and club President Mara Carlow.
Last year, Burrillville Middle School’s ABC group was led by BMS students Brandon Greene and Adriane Satish, student president and vice president, respectively. Last March, Greene traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a White House conference on bullying prevention. President Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, mentioned Greene's story in his conference speech, which stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to keep kids safe at schools and online.
During his visit to Washington, the Burrillville eighth-grader also met with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to discuss Greene's founding of ABC and his work as one of the youngest members of Burrillville's new Anti-Bullying Task Force, which was created by the Burrillville School Committee last year.
The landmark anti-bullying bill unanimously passed by Beacon Hill lawmakers last year calls for extensive bans against any actions that could be the reason of causing emotional or physical damage, including text messages and placing an indecent remark at someone via the Internet.
It also mandates anti-bullying training, for school staff, plus students, and requires that parents be informed of occurrences that take place at school.
According to national statistics, 160,000 kids a day across the nation miss school because they feel unsafe as a result of being bullied.
A U.S. Department of Education study recently found that 1 out of 3 students reported being bullied in the last school year, 1 in 10 reported being severely bullied, and 90 percent reported being bullied at some point in their school career.