MASON CITY — When Lincoln Intermediate School students approached Principal Tom Novotney about stopping the bullying in their school, everyone got to work to think of ways to raise awareness about bullying’s impact.
On Monday, the results were taken to heart by the entire student population.
“Stomp Out Bullying Day” included an all-school assembly featuring a PowerPoint presentation created by sixth-grade emcees Hannah Brown and Alexis Benitez; Matt Smith, who presented his reworking of the “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and an airing of a portion of “Finding Kind,” a documentary about bullying’s impact.
Brown, 11, said “a lot of us have experienced bullying; I think it’s happened to all of us at some time.”
“It has gotten worse and worse every day. We had to do something,” she said.
Kids were told about their options — telling a bully to stop, to talk to an adult and to show people kindness, and being assured that adults would help them if they are being harassed.
More help for the program came from the Kathy and James Shaman family, which helped sponsor a showing of documentary about bullying, “Finding Kind,” at the Surf Ballroom in May after their daughter, Hope, was bullied. About 15 minutes of the film was shown at the assembly.
Also compelling was the story told by Novotney’s daughter, Allison, 16, who suffered bullying at the hands of her peers when she was in the seventh and eighth grades.
Things did not change until she finally worked up the courage to say something to the girls bullying her, to speak with adults about the issue and to talk to a counselor.
“The scars are still there,” she said, despite the fact that today she has more confidence and is active in many school and community activities.
She has found her place, she said, and has even become a cheerleader.
But that is not what makes anyone “cool,” she said.
“What makes you cool ... is who you are, what you say and how you act,” she told the students.
Students and staff wore blue shirts to show unity in their purpose and participated in a number of activities to remind them how to empower people and not tear them down.
Students used sidewalk chalk to write a school pledge not to bully. Classroom activities included a lesson in which students finished the statement, “I will help stomp out bullying by ...” on paper footprints, and then placed them in the commons.
Alex Bunn, 11, wrote he would stop bullying by making a poster that would raise awareness of the problem. Erin Foss, 10, said she would help stop the practice by “telling people it’s wrong.”
Fifth-grade teacher Stacey Schisel said teachers conducted lessons that helped reinforce lessons learned during the assembly.
“The day has gone really well; kids really made such great connections” to the issues related to bullying, she said.
Superintendent of Schools Anita Micich said she was “really proud of the girls who came forward” that helped result in the day-long event. She acknowledged that the issue has “ramped up” due to the added weapon of social media.
Adults stood up during the assembly to show students that anyone being bullied could come to them to for help.
“They have to trust us that we will do something to help them when needed,” Micich said.