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Students "Stand Tall" Against Bullying


In a proactive attempt to squelch "bullying" behavior before it even emerges, one New York district embraced an anti-bullying theme. Through varied methods and activities, students at all levels were not just encouraged to avoid bullying behaviors themselves but to help the victims, either by standing up for other students or by seeking appropriate assistance. Included: See how the district spread the anti-bullying theme across the ages and the curriculum.

If you stopped by Cantiague Elementary School in Jericho, New York, last Valentine's Day, you would have been confronted at every turn with a repetitive theme -- Stand Tall. The whole school, and in fact the entire district of Jericho Public Schools, focused attention on the issue of bullying during the 2007-2008 school year. The Cantiague campaign was unveiled on this day with an inspirational whole-school assembly.

"Bullying is a universal concern," says Cantiague's art teacher Susan Menkes. "Our school emphasizes character education, and the anti-bullying campaign is one part of it. Not being a bully is an aspect of good character. Bullying is an issue that should probably be addressed everywhere, to promote a healthy, well-rounded child."

At the heart of Cantiague's anti-bullying activities was the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. A highpoint of the campaign occurred during a reading of the tale at the kickoff event, the Molly Lou Assembly.

"Molly Lou Melon" stands tall in this poster, proudly displaying a head of hair comprised of anti-bullying pledges signed by Cantiague Elementary students. (Photo courtesy of Susan Menkes)
"The story encourages children to speak up and to believe in themselves," explained Menkes. "During the assembly, the book was read again, and while the students were taking part, volunteers from the parent-teacher organization hung posters made by the third graders all over the school. Every door featured an anti-bullying message."

Cantiague Elementary's K-5 art program emphasizes the master artists. Students study the artists and gain inspiration from their work. So in their anti-bullying assignment, Menkes's more than 60 third graders were inspired by the bright, cartoon-like artwork of American artist Roy Lichtenstein. They used computers to replicate his "Benday Dots" and created eye-catching posters that conveyed anti-bullying messages in "bubbles."

"It was a wonderful surprise for the students to walk away from the assembly and find the posters everywhere, reinforcing the important message of the anti-bullying campaign," Menkes reported. "On the door to my room is a poster that reads, 'Not bullying is an art.'"

After the assembly, the students placed their anti-bullying pledges on a poster of Molly Lou to create her crazy hair. Classes toured the building to view the pledges and posters of all of the students. The children received mouse pads to take home as a reminder to "stand tall" and be an "upstander," not a "bystander," when they encountered bully-like behavior.

All grade levels completed drawings of Molly Lou Melon, and the students wrote about how they would stand up for themselves and others. Every class made colorful footprints that were placed on the floor leading into each classroom. The footprints contained personal narratives about times when they had "stood tall" by resisting a bully. For example, one footprint told the story of a student who defended his brother when other kids teased him about a missing tooth. Each footprint provided a concrete example of the campaign at work, something that Menkes saw, and still sees, every day.

The message in this third grader's poster, the design inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, is "I'll stand up for you." (Photo courtesy of Susan Menkes)
"Messages like it is good to be unique and being different is okay are reaching our students," she told Education World. "I definitely see that the students do appreciate differences. In my classroom, our motto is, You are the artist, so you decide. The students I encounter are kinder, more accepting, and readily help each other."

Further evidence came from the students' actions outside of school. One third grade classroom read Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene, which tells the story of a rather outlandish new student. The class dressed up one day in conjunction with the reading of the book. Out and about on that morning with a parent, a class member was singled out for her unusual garb when another (uninformed) child asked, "Why are you dressed so weird?" Unfazed, her reply was, "I'm not weird. I'm unique."

"Cantiague Elementary is an exceptionally collegial school in which the staff works well together and comes together to support programs like the anti-bullying initiative," added Menkes. "The students encountered the program everywhere -- in the library, in the computer room… They even wrote songs about it in music class!"


In all of the Jericho elementary schools, psychologists coordinate many of the anti-bullying activities, introducing students to proactive means to deal with bullying behavior. Children who are at risk for this behavior are taught anger management strategies and coping techniques through activities from resources like Angry Monster Workbook by Hennie Shore.

Jericho High School promotes the anti-bullying message with multiple programs that involve making healthy choices, increasing positive self-esteem, and encouraging respect and tolerance for others.

"Our mental health, substance abuse, and violence prevention services and programs are built upon the foundation of a comprehensive health and wellness model," explained Mary Marks, director of public information and community relations. "We approach prevention with the understanding that students need to be empowered to develop strong protective factors and resiliency skills. These skills are crucial in helping students avoid negative, self-destructive, and/or violent behavior patterns."

Several programs and services are offered, including substance abuse and mental health counseling, a peer drug education and prevention initiative, peer orientation and transition programs, charity fundraising events, anger management programs, initiatives to support random acts of kindness and positive community activities, tobacco cessation counseling groups, "Diversity Day" and "International Night" events, and more.

"Current research and best practices suggest that one of the best ways to deter bullying behavior is by empowering the bystanders to take action against the bully," reports Adam D. Winnick, principal of Robert Seaman Elementary School. "Therefore, friendship groups across the grades have focused lessons and activities to teach children to discriminate between the continuum of joking, teasing, and bullying. In small groups, children role play scenarios in which they are witnessing another child being bullied. They then practice taking action."

By assuming the "hero" role, these students rehearse standing up to a bully or practice coming to the defense of another child by seeking alternate assistance for the victim. Small group lessons also target dealing with peer pressure, which is a tool often used by bullies to get others to remain silent about witnessing bullying behavior. To assist children at risk for becoming victims, small groups of students take part in assertiveness training, with lessons and themes taken from Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power & Positive Self-Esteem by Gershen Kaufman, Lev Raphael, and Pamela Espeland.

"There is also an active peer mediation program, in which the peer mediators are trained to recognize the beginnings of conflict between students and lead them to mediation sessions," said Winnick. "These peer mediators are skillful listeners who become the eyes and ears for the guidance office."

Other proactive activities and themes in the psychologist's office are based on the Words Can Heal Program, a national media and educational campaign designed to reduce verbal violence and gossip.

"Gossip is a leading cause of non-physical bullying that can devastate children for a lifetime," Winnick stated. "This program teaches children to use words that encourage, enrich, and engage each other. Children are read short stories in small groups with lessons that teach the power of words and inspire them to use words for comfort and kindness."

Another tool utilized by the elementary schools in Jericho is the Heartwood Ethics Curriculum, which uses read-aloud children's books to convey seven universal ethical attributes -- courage, loyalty, justice, respect, hope, honesty, and love.

"Research indicates that our minds and hearts respond to and remember passages from literature," says George A. Jackson Elementary School principal Benny D'Aquila. "Our students read, discuss, share, and then apply their understanding of the concepts to their daily lives and everyday reactions to each other. This program supports critical thinking, writing, creativity, cooperative learning, and exploration of the world. These activities are integrated into all curriculum areas and are constantly reinforced throughout the school year."


Jericho Middle School works collaboratively with the School Mental Health Alliance of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System Behavioral Health Services to implement the Bully Reduction/Anti-Violence Education Program (B.R.A.V.E.). The program includes workshops for school personnel, informational sessions for parents, and lessons delivered directly to students in a classroom setting. Student lessons are provided by mental health professionals with teachers present.

"The B.R.A.V.E. program is based on current social science research and provides districts with effective strategies and interventions to address harassment," explained Principal Donald F. Gately. "The achievable goal of this program is to develop nonviolent school environments. The School Mental Health Alliance professionals recognize that no individual alone can change a school environment. Working together, students, parents, educators, administrators, and school mental health consultants cultivate educational environments that are respectful and nonviolent."

"When you're mean, it makes me feel insecure," reads another anti-bullying poster from Cantiague Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Susan Menkes)
A natural extension of the middle school's B.R.A.V.E. program, Voices of Love and Freedom is a nationally recognized literature-based program which promotes character education, drug prevention, and literacy instruction. Grade six students also receive health enrichment in conjunction with the W.I.S.E. S.T.A.R.T. program. The student-centered activities are a collaborative effort between guidance, health/physical education staff, and professional support personnel. One class period each week promotes responsibility, cooperation, compassion, wellness, positive self-esteem and decision making, and encourages substance abuse prevention.

"The Personal Best Program was initiated at Jericho Middle School in the 2006-2007 school year," recalls Gately. "This program encourages students as well as staff to do their personal best in the academic, personal, social, physical, emotional, and ethical realms of experience. It is a purposeful effort aimed at downplaying competition in favor of personal growth and development. The message students are told repeatedly is Do Your Personal Best. You don't have to be better than anyone else; be better that you were yesterday."

The first day of the second marking period was declared Personal Best Day. There was music throughout the day, and in a school-wide assembly, staff members spoke about the Do Your Personal Best theme. The cheerleaders and jazz orchestra performed, with a special appearance by the Jericho Jayhawk. Staff/student volleyball games took place during lunch periods.

The 2007-2008 school year began with a Personal Best Kickoff Event. Every member of the middle school staff was introduced to the entire student body, and students signed an "I Will Do My Personal Best" banner. Gately also unveiled an exciting "Name the Jayhawk" contest.

"Throughout the school year, there were monthly Personal Best events held after school in the library at which students nominated by staff members received Personal Best awards along with a Jericho Middle School T-shirt," added Gately. "The jazz ensemble performed at these events and students’ families were invited to attend."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originally published 08/11/2008
Last updated 10/28/2008