National Bullying Prevention Month
Geneva Parents for School Safety’s programs for National Bullying Prevention Month brought students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders together to work on the problem of bullying in our school system.
More than 1,000 students at Geneva Middle School and 500 students at Geneva High School, along with teachers, administrators and parents, signed a pledge of kindness and then tied a kindness ribbon to a school fence to signify their promise.
Geneva Middle School students also participated in “Compliments Day.” Each student wrote a compliment about the person to their left during lunch. No matter if they knew each other or not, liked each other or not, they wrote something positive about that person. The compliments were reviewed and handed back to its intended person the next day. The lesson: you can say something positive about any person in any situation.
Students from across the district created paper flowers and planted a “kindness garden” with the help of our local librarians at the Geneva Public Library. The children wrote a positive affirmation in the center of each of the 55 flowers to show kindness and understanding. Elementary students in our three elementary schools painted more than 1,500 kindness rocks. The rocks were used in a community art exhibit in the center of our town as reminders to everyone – adults included – that a community is built on kindness and understanding. National Bullying Prevention Month programs were extended into November to include World Kindness Day on Nov. 3, when students created more than 600 thank you notes to be given to local veterans on Veteran’s Day.
While our programs focused on the schools, parents helped the children understand the pledges that they made. Parents were encouraged to participate in rock painting, and students invited their parents to join in the rock garden ceremony, located at the community pavilion in the center of town. Parents helped “plant” the paper flowers, and also handed out candy during the Kindness Garden walk, when students had the opportunity to see their paper flowers “planted” in a garden, and were able to talk about the positive statements they wrote with their parents. We used each event as a way for students to share concerns about bullying and school safety with their teachers and parents, and for parents to get valuable resources on how to help their child deal with a bully.
These services are particularly important to our community now, as budget cuts within our district have significantly decreased the number of programs and resources for students. Teacher and counselor layoffs and the elimination of art classes have hit the student body hard. Our Kindness Awareness events were designed to fill in those gaps, while also including parents so they can become more aware of the situations their children sometimes face at school.
Our community of Geneva, Ohio was brought into the spotlight with a segment on the local Channel 3 news about the students and their work. As word spread about the programs, business owners stepped up to fund pizza, cookies, drinks, paper and art supplies, and even rocks. These programs brought our community together in a surprising and unexpected way as we all worked to solve the problem of bullying in our schools.
Our goal was to include every single Geneva student in our programs. Providing these opportunities for special needs students was challenging. One autistic student flung his arm, sending a paper plate of paint across the floor. His 4th grade classmates rallied to help. One talked to the boy and calmed him down, while others cleaned up the paint and got him more paint so he could finish his Kindness Rock. Their kindness and concern for their classmate was a powerful testament to kindness and acceptance in our schools.
During one of the conversations we had with students about bullying, a 3rd grade girl began to cry. We thought she was upset because she was being bullied, but the girl said she was crying because she had been bullying another student. She said she didn’t know why she was being mean to her classmate, but that she wanted to give the girl her Kindness Rock and apologize, because she knows what she did was wrong and she wanted to make it right.
We capitalized on the idea of National Bullying Prevention Month to bring Kindness Awareness programs to every student in our district. With the full support of our teachers and administrators, we were able to provide these programs to more than 4,000 students, teachers and parents.
The volume of participation alone makes our project a success, but also the fact that our programs made a LASTING impact on our community.