JAMESTOWN — Greeneview school officials are hoping their students will “choose kind.”
After an alarming increase in the number of bullying and harassment complaints in the district, administrators and teachers are putting the high school kids to work to help change the culture. From the 2015-16 school year to last school year, the number of bullying reports nearly tripled from nine to 24. Confirmed cases went from three to nine in that same span. Harassment reports increased from 15 to 34, while confirmed cases went from 11 to 19.
Teachers and administrators felt something needed to change, so students spent the entire school day Dec. 15 working on ways to promote positivite behavior and reduce the negativity. They took a field trip to view the move “Wonder,” a new film about a child with a facial deformity being bullied in school and how he deals with it and how things change as the movie progresses.
When they returned to the school, students took part in structured discussions about the movie in an effort to get students to “choose kind,” which is an overall theme in the film.
They also heard from the Rev. Greg Dyson, director of intercultural leadership at Cedarville University, who spoke on many of the themes of the day.
“We didn’t just want to go and watch a movie,” Principal Brian Masser said.
The high school students also adopted elementary and middle school homerooms and made locker signs and bookmarks with friendly, positive messages on them.
“For us it’s a way of addressing district-wide culture,” Superintendent Isaac Seevers said. “We’re trying to take back control of how we treat other people.”
Many students were caught off guard and concerned at the number of complaints.
“Crazy,” senior Joshua Selim said. “I was like, ‘wow.’ ”
Added freshman Isaiah Marvin, “I was very surprised.”
“I’ve always known that there is bullying going on,” he said. “I think it’s a thing that happens behind the scenes.”
There are myriad reasons why bullying and harassment occurs. It could be appearance, religion, money, or even clothes.
“I feel like it’s because of race and what’s going on around the world,” Selim said. “People bully because there’s probably something going on at home or they’ve been bullied. I don’t think that’s right. You never know what the other person is going through. Why make their day worse?”
Technology has helped fuel the rise, according to senior Aleah Simpson.
“When it comes to how the bullying has increased, I think it has to do a lot with social media platforms,” she said.
Many students agree the movie and the activities afterward should help change things in the school buildings.
“It opened my eyes for sure,” Selim said. “I’ve seen it happen before and I’ve been bullied before. I just hope it opens peoples’ eyes.”
Senior Darian Heath said she has been bullied in the past and was “touched” by “Wonder.”
“I think it’ll affect some people,” she said. “I saw some people get teary eyed. It will help people. (In the movie) they realized what they did wrong. That’s what people need to start doing.”
Added Marvin, “It was a good example of how you have to choose your friends wisely. You shouldn’t bully people for things that are out of their control. You shouldn’t bully period. It’ll help people to remember that words are very strong. You can never take back what you say.”
Simpson said younger kids look up to the high school kids and mimic behavior.
“We’re such a small school, people see us and they know our names,” she said. “If they see that ‘Oh, the star basketball player that we all look up to thinks bullying is bad,’ it might help combat some of it.”
That’s exactly what district officials hope happens.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.