OXFORD – Bullying is no longer about the strong picking on the weak in the schoolyard. The dynamic of physical contact and face-to-face menacing has been replaced by online bashing. Increasingly tech savvy students are using instant messaging, emails and chat apps to humiliate targeted peers.
In light of that, several area schools are stepping up and taking proactive measures to combat a potential bullying epidemic. One of those schools is Oxford Academy.
“We would like to welcome parents and community members to learn about Sweethearts and Heroes,” said Katie Hansen Oxford Middle School Principal.
Sweethearts and Heroes is a community program that aims to raise awareness about different aspects of bulling both in and out of the classroom.
“Middle school students will participate in powerful assemblies during the school day,” said Hansen, adding that an evening program for the community will be held beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in the Oxford Middle School Auditorium at Fort Hill.
“Sweethearts and Heroes is a one of a kind anti-bullying organization that believes in educating society toward the impact bullying has on all of our schools, neighborhoods and individuals,” said Hansen. “Their unique perspective, action plan (for every member of the bullying cycle) and unmatched ignition to make change puts Sweethearts and Heroes at the top of the list when it comes to changing schools’ climates.”
Parents can no longer count on seeing the tell-tale signs of bullying—a black eye, bloody lip, or torn clothes. But the damage done by cyber bullies is no less real and can be infinitely more painful.
According to stopbullying.gov, most bullying occurs when adults are not present, and a Secret Service Initiative study found that school shootings are rarely impulsive acts. More often than not, they’re fully thought out and planned in advance.
In most cases, other students knew the shootings were about to occur but did not alert an adult. In addition, prior to most shootings an adult saw a behavior that caused concern but did nothing.
“We don’t have a Bullying problem in America. What we have is a lack of Sweethearts and Heroes,” said Hansen.
Students should feel comfortable reporting a bullying incident, explained Hansen. Because no child wants to be labeled a snitch or rat, she said children need to know that reporting an incident will be handled properly and their confidentiality will be respected. Everyone needs to be educated and trained to accomplish this. Training should include administrators, teachers, parents, students, and bus drivers.
Giving students a voice and making them part of the process empowers them to create sustainable change.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Bullying peaks in middle school but starts as early as preschool with children using relational aggression.”
In this age of technology, communities as a whole must foster and maintain channels where students can directly communicate with counselors, parents, teachers and community members—including authorities—and programs like Sweethearts and Heros strive to do just that.
“There is a positive change in culture and climate when all parties become involved stakeholders and take personal responsibility for standing up, speaking out and eliminating bullying. Giving students a voice and making them part of the process empowers them to create sustainable change,” states the stopbullying.gov website.
“Children, Teachers, and Parents need to know that we all have the potential to be someone’s ‘sweetheart’ and power to be a Hero,” said Hansen.