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Monday, October 16, 2017

Photos courtesy of WMS

WMS Sixth graders start anti-bullying committee (slideshow 3)

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Washington Middle School sixth graders have formed a new anti-bullying committee in an effort to stamp out bullying at the school.

The idea to set up a committee specifically to campaign against bullying came directly from sixth grade students who were already part of the school’s Teens in Partnership  program, according to WMS school counselor Sherri Nissley.

“A few of my sixth graders came in and said they thought it would be a good idea to start an anti-bullying committee and to do some things in our school to promote kindness, tolerance and compassion towards all our students,” Nissley said.

Nissley credited one student in particular for leading the charge to start the committee. Sixth grader Gabe Higbee said the inspiration for the committee struck her during a workshop Nissley was running for T.I.P. students about taking individual action to stop and prevent bullying.

“And all this time I got this idea of ‘Hey, let’s see if we could possibly do this for the whole school and be the best we can be,’” Higbee said.

And so the new anti-bullying committee was born. The committee is strictly composed of sixth graders, who will plan and direct the school’s anti-bullying campaigns. Once the committee chooses a course of action, all T.I.P. students from all three grades at WMS are called in to help execute it.

Last week proved to be a perfect time for the WMS anti-bullying committee to begin their work in earnest. The week of Jan. 23-27 coincides with the “Great Kindness Challenge,” a nationwide anti-bullying campaign. 

To mark the week, the committee members and other T.I.P. students went into each homeroom in the school, showing an anti-bullying video and then leading a discussion about bullying prevention. Students have also been handing out orange strips of paper during lunch period (orange is the color chosen to represent national anti-bullying efforts) asking kids to write down something they have done recently to stop or prevent bullying or to show kindness towards a fellow student and sign their name to it. At the end of the week, all the signed strips of paper will be gathered together and made into a “chain” to represent the school’s commitment to fighting bullying.

For the students involved in the anti-bullying committee, their involvement largely stems from either a personal experience with bullying or from knowing someone who has suffered through it.

Caleb Myrhe is one of those who said he joined after experiencing ongoing bullying in school, something he said he still deals with from time to time.

“It doesn’t feel good to get bullied at all,” he said.

Lillian Olmstead said she joined after seeing what bullying did to her brother when he was at another school.

“My brother, when he was in school he got bullied a lot by a lot of people, and he ended up refusing to go to school because he got bullied so bad and ended up being homeschooled,” she said.

Several committee members said they joined after witnessing new students who have moved to town experience bullying and difficulty fitting in and making new friends.

“I joined because our school should become one big family,” said Saddie Egan, herself a relatively recent arrival in Glendive who had one bully who tormented her when she first moved to town a little over a year ago. “And when someone new moves in and they get bullied right away it leaves a big impression on them, and not a good one.”

Other members of the committee said they had no real personal experience with bullying, but they feel fighting against it is the right thing to do.

“I have been a bystander for a long time and I just kind of wanted to take a stand,” Mataya Tipton said.

Ultimately, the students involved said the best way to stamp out bullying in their school is stand up together against it and to ensure they reach out with kindness and compassion towards any student they see enduring it.

“When people bully you, you have no power over it, so without any help, you can’t stop it,” Caton Pearcy said.

The power to stop bullying at WMS lies with the students above all, Nissley said, noting that the anti-bullying message is far more powerful for the larger student body when it comes from their peers.

“That’s a big part of it, is it coming from the kids themselves and them standing up sends a much more powerful message than adults coming in and talking about it,” Nissley said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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