In April 18 IssueRussell County NewsBy Greg Wells, RCN Managing Editor
"Wearing a black T-shirt and carrying a chainsaw," is what one student volunteers as his description of a bully.
Heather Hurt-Klepper and Maja Cupac are in Teresa Meyer's classroom at Salem Elementary and they are asking the first-grade students about bullies.
They steer the conversation away from the horror-show version of bullies and ask, "Can a pretty little girl be a bully?"
At first there are no's then they are outnumbered by the yes's and soon the consensus is that pretty little girls and nice looking little boys can be bullies.
The students get down to describing personal experiences, including the requisite complaints about older siblings. Eventually the two women from the Regional Victim Services Program bring the students back to talk about other students who may have said or done things to them that weren't nice.
They encourage them to approach teachers and parents if things happen either to them or to others in their school.
Cupac points out that generally little girls aren't known for physically threatening others, and explains her experience.
She tells the class about her friends and how one girl would intimidate the others, telling them if they talked to some other girl no one would be their friend.
That class last Tuesday was one of many classes that passed through Meyer's Health/Nutrition & Arts/Humanities classroom which the women talked with.
Meyer said Russell County Sheriff's Deputy Clete McAninch, who also spoke to the children, had brought the women to the class as part of the school's work to insure bullying isn't a problem.
"We're trying to keep awareness high so there won't be a problem," Meyer said.
The teacher said Salem has plans to install an anonymous drop-box for students to let the administration know about any problems, without feeling like they could be singled out as a tattle-tail.
Hurt-Klepper, who conducted much of the class, steered the wandering young minds from their imagined chainsaw wielding monsters to other children who may try to make then do things or push them to treat others badly.
She said today's bullying is often more about rumor starting and name calling, though the traditional boy behaviors of bullying are still common.
Though Meyer said the school hasn't experienced a problem with bullying Hurt-Klepper stressed it has been in all of the schools they've visited in the ten-county area Adanta serves.
She said that Salem is the only school they've presented this program in, but they've worked other programs here, and anticipate presenting others in the future.
"I'd like to bring them back," McAninch said. "They have a good program on internet safety that would be good at the middle school."
He said there is some evidence that some children who have always just been listed as runaway children nationally have been abducted over the years and middle school is where he said the warnings about meeting people "in the real world" who they met first online could save the lives of "tweens" and teens.