SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – On the morning of June 21, the student body of Grant School will participate in a walk in support of anti-bullying and a positive school climate. The walk is being sponsored by Buddies Against Bullying, a student-driven after school club, and Girl School Troop 65016 with support from the Grant School PTO.
“This message is so important because a lot of kids are bullied. I think most kids don't tell an adult [or] know how to handle the bullying and harassment,” said outgoing sixth grader Faith Lowrie who, along with classmates Lorenzo Fuscoletti, Matthew Hannon, Luisa Ponce Jimenez, and Daniel Mejias, formed the student driven after school club back in January. “There is a lot of inappropriate talk and behavior that is very hurtful.”
Buddies Against Bullying, which is open to fifth and sixth graders, is designed to help students stand up to bullies; understand that they are never alone; and promote trust and belief in others while also creating activities that spread positive school climate and anti-bullying indicatives. According to Principal Patrick Sarullo, who serves as the club’s advisor, the club is designed ‘to promote positive school climate and anti-bullying.’
Faith, a victim of bullying, hopes the club will help reduce bullying and harassment and make the school a ‘safe place’ where all those who walk the halls after her have support from their friends and peers.
“I think the club can help reduce bullying in Grant School if more kids knew how to stand up to bullying and understood they are not alone and there are people who can help them. I also think it can help other kids who witness bullying to stand up for their friends,” said Faith, adding that she would ‘love’ to implement a similar club when she gets to South Plainfield Middle School in the fall.
During the 2017-2018 school year, the club met monthly and, according to Sarullo, membership increased with each meeting with students working together to brainstorm and implement activities to promote their message. In January, Buddies Against Bullies helped designed glow-in-the-dark anti-bullying wristbands for the school’s Glow Dance and, in April, club members worked to promote positive school climate pledges that were hung up around the school. Additionally, the club also worked to hold school spirit dress days to support anti-bullying.
Thursday’s walk, said the principal, stemmed out of an idea club members and Grant students in Girl Scout Troop 65016 had to hold a school-wide event to support anti-bullying; students are encouraged to wear blue – the color representing anti-bullying initiatives – and yellow to school that day.
“The Troop attended a Buddies Against Bullying meeting and liked the idea of the entire school walking around the Grant School campus to display united support for positive school climate and anti-bullying,” said Sarullo.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘bullying’ as ‘abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.’ According to www.StopBullying.org, bullying can be verbal, social, and/or physical; can occur in and out of school; and include such actions as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
The same website also reports that 1 in 7 students in kindergarten through 12th grade are either a bully or have been a victim of bullying and estimates that 160,000 children in the United States miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Currently, there is no federal law that directly addresses bullying, however, in some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it is based on race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion.
According to an Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying (HIB) Report issued at a recent South Plainfield Board of Education meeting, there were 23 reported claims at Grant from Sept. 6, 2017 to May 16, 2018; of that number 9 – including the incident that affected Faith – were verified.
“Bullying laws need to change. Our kids are suffering, most of them in silence,” said Faith’s mom Kristy Lowrie, adding, “When you see first hand how it can break your child’s spirit, you’ll do whatever it takes.”
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