Farqhuar students tackle bullying

Program stems from efforts of Project Change, SADD

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Click here to enlarge this photo
Photo courtesy of Project Change
Students at Farquhar Middle School in Olney show the mural they created to highlight the problems of bullying. The mural, which will hang at the school, contains a slogan that the students developed: ‘‘Help others respect and support each other.”

After spending several months discussing the problem of bullying, a group of seventh graders at Farquhar Middle School in Olney recently decided to illustrate the problem. The result is an 8-foot mural titled ‘‘You Have the Power to Stop Bullying Now.”

The mural takes its title from a bullying prevention program of the same name, which has been implemented in several Olney-area schools.

With a $550 grant from Youth Service America⁄Youth Venture, Sherwood High School students — members of the Olney-area youth groups Project Change and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) — first presented the ‘‘You Have The Power!” program at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney in spring 2005.

The result was a videotaped Public Service Announcement featuring the middle school students acting in a series of skits portraying bullying and how to deal with it in a variety of situations. The videotaped PSA was shown in Rosa Parks classrooms in April 2005.

Last fall, the high school students enlisted the help of the same middle school students, who, in turn, mentored Belmont Elementary School students to produce a PSA geared to elementary-aged students. Following a program attended by Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, the videotaped PSA was shown in Belmont Elementary classrooms in February.

The ‘‘You Have The Power!” program was implemented at Farquhar Middle School this spring. In addition to producing a PSA, which was shown in classrooms via closed-circuit television on May 26, the students decided to create a mural to visually represent the problem of bullying.

‘‘I didn’t realize what bullying was,” seventh-grader Zakary Kronemer said.

Students participating in the program learned that bullying can be verbal as well as physical and can be perpetrated in cyberspace as well as on the playground. They learned that while there are bullies and victims, most people fall into a third category — bystander. Bystanders do not have to confront the bullies, but they can report the bullying to a teacher or other trusted adult.

Students also learned that bullying could have dire consequences. In addition to truancy, it could lead to other consequences.

The students also learned that bullies are more at risk of engaging in criminal behavior as adults, so it is important to intervene to change their behavior while they are still young.

The students also observed that the ‘‘popular crowd” often engages in its own form of bullying — exclusion from the group.

Project Change adult leaders Robyn Holstein-Glass and Dorothy Kane have been at the forefront of implementing the bullying-prevention campaign in the Olney area. The organization has received numerous requests for participating youths to speak about the program at events throughout the county.

The next step toward further implementation of the ‘‘You Have the Power!” program is for Project Change members to develop a how-to guide to instruct other high school students on how they can launch a bullying prevention program in their own schools.

‘‘With generous donations from Montgomery General Hospital and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, we plan to package and distribute the program throughout the state of Maryland,” Holstein-Glass said.

The mural, which will hang at Farquhar Middle School, contains a slogan that the students developed as a group: ‘‘Help others respect and support each other.”

Audrey Partington is an adult leader of Project Change in Olney.