DISTRICT HEIGHTS – A growing problem, bullying, has brought together an expanding list of organizations willing to help address it. According to www.stopbullying.gov, conclusive research has shown that between one in three and one in four United States students say they have been bullied at school. Verbal and social bullying are most common. Youth, parents, […]
DISTRICT HEIGHTS – A growing problem, bullying, has brought together an expanding list of organizations willing to help address it.
According to www.stopbullying.gov, conclusive research has shown that between one in three and one in four United States students say they have been bullied at school. Verbal and social bullying are most common.
Youth, parents, officials and community leaders acknowledged the effects of bullying together on Aug. 20 at the District Heights Municipal Building by attending a kickoff event that offered strategies to combat it. After a talent mash-up of dancing, modeling and acting, free book bags were distributed to students. Local authors displayed their books as attendees learned about resources from participating organizations including A Mother’s HYMN (His Young Men Needed); STARS (Sharing Thru Adversities Reaching Success); Celebrity Status Entertainment; Arch of Knowledge; the eMPAS Group (Empowering, Educating, and Enhancing Students’ Abilities in Music, Performing Arts and Sports); and Visions Performing Arts Company. Guest speakers such as K. Alexander Wallace, a District 7 Board of Education member, shared anti-bullying messages and offered support.
“As a board member, we all have key initiatives,” Wallace said. “Some of my colleagues advocate for single mothers, some advocate for special education children, some advocate for minority businesses and contracts in the school system. The two initiatives that I have are alumni engagement, because I am a Prince George’s County Public Schools alum, but I am also helping our young people in middle and high school be more engaged with combating cyberbullying.
“We cannot legislate the culture of cyberbullying and bullying. It has to be grassroots. It has to come from our students. And what a lot of people don’t realize is that bullying is not in high school. Primarily, it’s in middle school, and so we engage our students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. That empowerment is going to lead to high school and that’s where you see the growth. That’s where you see the success.”
Tyronda Boone, a music teacher at Samuel P. Massey Academy in Forestville, said she brought the organizations, that address bullying together to participate in the No Bully Zone. Boone, the founder of Visions Performing Arts Company, a nonprofit organization offering lessons in vocal performance, dance, dramatics and stage presence, explained that supporting the social and emotional health of the community has also been integrated into the mission.
On a quarterly basis, several events focusing on decreasing bullying will be held for school-age children. The next No Bully Zone event is scheduled for Oct. 15, also at the District Heights Municipal Building.
Before students departed from the kickoff, Boone, who has been a teacher for 16 years, explained that she and her partners want to stay connected with attendees.
“We (will) have four different No Bully Zones a year, or four different big events, but it basically started because I, for one, was bullied when I was younger,” Boone said. “But as an educator, I see that it is really not getting better. It’s getting more frequent and more intense because we do have cyberbullying. It wasn’t available when I was in school, so teachers can really only do so much in the school day.
“If parents really don’t know what’s going on, they can’t help and be an advocate for their child. So we really wanted to offer these types of events, not only for parents and families to get more information, but also to give those students who are being bullied an outlet to express themselves and let them know that they are not alone.”
Boone said a lot of the work she has done so far has stemmed from the bullying experiences she had when she was younger.
“I love the arts, that’s what I’m about,” she said. “But at the same time, I wanted to do something that was more on a different social and emotional level because, for example, myself, there was a lot of things that I didn’t do because I was scared of being bullied or what somebody would say or if they were going to laugh at me. I didn’t do those things and I don’t want any of our children to hold back. I want to give them encouragement. We want to give them as much encouragement as we possibly can.”
The eMPAS Group, founded by Charles Smalley, is a nonprofit that collaborates with other organizations and entities to address bullying and other issues. Paris Smalley, 14, is Smalley’s daughter and is a part of the group. Through it, she found other students with whom she can identify. After performing a skit on stage, Paris explained that she loves working in the community and being a catalyst for change.
“We go to different schools in the Washington Metropolitan area and we talk to students about social development issues such as bullying, peer pressure, body image and other things,” Paris said. “Our mission is to educate students and parents alike on not only bullying, but also all social development issues, and how they can actually be a part of mitigating some of those issues.”
As schools open their doors, Boone offered key tips for students who may experience bullying. She advised youth to stay away from the bully, if possible, and added that bullied students should love themselves enough to follow the steps she advised.
“If you’re being bullied you definitely need to speak up,” Boone said. “You have to stand up for yourself because the most important asset to you is you, and you don’t want to sit and let somebody tear you down.
“Next, you have to get some help. Talk to your teacher. If that teacher doesn’t listen, talk to another teacher. If that teacher doesn’t listen, talk to the counselor. Talk to as many people as you need to talk to for you to get some help, to get some attention.”
Boone says she is hoping to host bully cafes and is looking for restaurants to be partners in the effort. Visit www.visionspac.com for more information about upcoming No Bully Zone events or to contact her for more information.