Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Lincoln Middle School is proving that tremendous changes in a school’s culture are possible when students stand up to bullying and other unacceptable behavior. As a series of stories in the Kenosha News illustrate, the positive, supportive actions of a few young teens can reverberate throughout an entire student body – and well beyond.
Last fall, Desiree Andrews, a 14-year-old 8th grade cheerleader with Down syndrome at Lincoln Middle School, was the target of derogatory comments and bullying from a group of students in the home team bleachers during a basketball game. During a timeout, three members of the Lincoln Knights team left the floor, went into the stands and told the bullies to stop their inappropriate behavior.
But the impact of this simple act of caring had only begun. The school has since renamed the gymnasium ‘D’s House’ in Desiree’s honor, with fans in the stands wearing T-shirts with a “D’s House” logo marking her inclusion as part of this year’s team. A celebration at the team’s final home game earlier this month prompted video coverage created by Kenosha News, which was soon being viewed online by more than 10,000 people per hour. Within a few days, the video had been viewed by more than half a million people in 182 countries – five times the population of Kenosha itself!
The takeaways from this act of kindness are uplifting, to be sure, but not unexpected when you consider that experts in childhood education and anti-bullying agree that the most effective way to combat bullying and other inappropriate social behavior is to focus first on teaching respect and kindness. The tremendous impact of even a single example of what standing up to bullying looks like can serve as a rallying cry that engenders a caring and respectful school environment, regardless of how that school or the community itself was viewed previously.
Ben Woods, an eight-grader on the Kenosha basketball team, put it this way: “I think it’s great because some people thought Lincoln was a bad school, that it had a bad reputation, and I think this helps people think differently about that.”
Cliff Andrews, Desiree’s father, agrees that this moment in the sun for his daughter positively impacts the community at large, but also emphasizes just how important a single action can be. “It started out when some fine young men stood up for her in a bullying situation. I don’t want to lose track of that. I don’t want to take away from what those boys did.”
What Respect Looks Like
While standing up to bullying is a key component of any anti-bullying effort, knowing what bullying looks like begins with first recognizing what respect, kindness and appropriate behavior consists of – and that starts earlier than many may think. Experts agree that bullying is a growing problem in our high schools, but our experience with delivering our Helping Everyone Achieve Respect (H.E.A.R.) presentation to hundreds of thousands of high school students also confirms these experts’ view that bullying is an even bigger problem in our middle schools.
That’s why this heartwarming story is particularly timely for us. In response to the success of H.E.A.R. and an outpouring of interest by middle school educators, we are in the final stages of rolling out RESPECT for Everyone – an anti-bullying presentation and set of student, teacher, and parent resources designed specifically for today’s middle school environment. RESPECT draws upon the proven H.E.A.R. approach to create an interactive classroom presentation delivered by well-qualified instructors trained in conveying the messages of anti-bullying, respectful personal behavior, and active intervention to middle school students.
For more information on how your middle school students can receive the key messages of RESPECT for Everyone and how they can become engaged in standing up to bullying in their school, please contact Career Training Concepts, Inc. at 888-326-9229.