See it, say it, stop it: Students fight back against bullying
Ashley Lax, junior at Two Harbors High School, said bullying gets a lot less obvious as students get older.
In younger kids, bullying is easy to see, like pushing someone around on the playground or calling names. When students get to high school, sometimes it can be hard to tell if joking around is actually fun between friends or a form of bullying.
“We are trying to make people realize what bullying is,” THHS senior Dan O’Neil said.
Lax and O’Neil are part of a DECA class at THHS. DECA is an international association intended to prepare leaders and entrepreneurs for careers. Julie Benson, a teacher at the high school, started the program last year.
This semester, the students are working on a public relations campaign to make schools around the district safer, healthier places. The student council in Silver Bay is working on a similar project.
Rachel Howard, counselor in Two Harbors, hopes the peer aspect will reach students. Adults often can’t help simply because they don’t know about the problems.
“When they’re mean...it’s when (adults aren’t) watching,” she said.
The students’ campaign slogan, “see it, say it, stop it,” is all part of building a healthy climate for all students. The biggest problem with bullying in the district, Howard said, is that incidences may be under-reported or unreported. Educating students and all staff on how to create that healthy climate will help students feel safer about coming forward and also reduce incidences.
“Everybody’s got to speak the same language,” she said.
Teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and bus drivers had training sessions earlier this school year to learn strategies to minimize bullying and maximize acceptance. Getting the students involved is the logical next step. Jim Jelinske, a nationally-known anti-bullying speaker, presented to the school district staff before the school year started. Jelinske’s visit was funded by a grant from the Northland Foundation.
“When we first met him, everyone felt really inspired and empowered,” Howard said.
Jelinske is returning next week to speak with students and the community. The students will attend his presentation during the school day and he’s holding evening programs for the community. Howard said she hopes parents attend as well as community members, because a safe and healthy climate shouldn’t end when students walk out the school doors in the afternoon.
“The climate isn’t just in schools, it’s in the community,” she said.
A student who said he had been bullied was featured on FOX 21 News this spring, around the same time the high school was forming a committee to address bullying. Lax and O’Neil both knew the student.
“(Bullying is) a problem. I see it around,” O’Neil said.
Benson said that students she’s spoken to all expressed a personal connection to bullying.
“So many have their own personal stories,” she said.
Lax hopes their campaign makes a difference in the school’s climate but said the group also wants to show off their marketing skills. If their campaign works, it could not only make students more comfortable at their school but could also send the DECA class on a trip to the west coast. They’ll compete in DECA competitions with their anti-bullying campaign, with the ultimate goal of reaching the national competition in California next spring.
For now, Lax and O’Neil hope their campaign inspires district students to recognize harmful behaviors and say something when they see it.
“It’s hard to stand up to your friends,” Lax said, but Jelinske’s presentation and the DECA class’s campaign will hopefully make it a little easier.
Jelinske will present at Two Harbors High School on Oct. 22 and at William Kelley High School on Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. on both days. The public is encouraged to attend.