+ Middle School Students Write a Book About Bullying

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In Rafael Olmeda’s article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, we learn that a book, a work in progress, will address personal stories about bullying — by victims and young perpetrators.

Titled “I Was a Bully… But I Stopped,”  the book is on a fast track to be published within the month. 

It will be distributed in Broward County and then it will be offered to the Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade school districts.

Broward County was the first school district in Florida to develop an anti-bullying program.  The rest of the state’s districts followed suit by the end of 2008.

The fifty middle schoolers collaborating on the book have created characters like “Michael,”  who learns how to be abusive from watching his dad treat his mom terribly.  “Lucina” never learned to be a bully, but she’s privileged… so why shouldn’t she “lord it over” those who are not?

Bob Knotts, a local author who conceived  the book and is a founder of the Dania Beach-based Humanity Project, developed the project and is helping produce it.  

He says, “Bullying really hurts everybody in school, and it takes everybody to stop it.” 

Two high-profile events led to the Humanity Project.  In October, a seventh-grader skipped school out of fear of another student who had tried to steal his dad’s bike; that student and his pals assaulted the boy and set him on fire.  (He survived.)

Then, in March, and eighth-grade girl was violently attacked at a campus bus stop by a high school student who thought she had insulted his dead brother in a text message.  The high-school student has been charged with attempted murder.

The March incident prompted the district to promote more vigorously its “Silence Hurts” program, an anonymous way to report bullying and threats of violence.

Knotts has two goals with the Humanity Project workshop — he wants to provide an academic exercise for children “at risk” of low achievement or failure, and also to engage them in bullying prevention.

He did not compel students to talk in front of the class, but knows “some elements of all their experiences will end up in their finished stories.”

The character “Michael,” is a dyslexic boy, whose dad is black and whose mom is Asian) says he bullies because it’s all he knows how to do.  “Lucina” is a white girl from a wealthy family whose parents recently divorced.

Once the characters were developed, students went into groups to work on their stories.  Each group was free to create a victim and to figure out a realistic way for the bully to change before the story’s end.

One student says “I can relate to Michael a little bit.  But only a little bit.  I don’t think he wants to be a bully.  I actually think it’s because of what he’s going through.”

Allowing students to create the victims is a way to grant them insight into how it feels to be bullied.

Michael is imagined terrorizing a small freckled squeaky-voiced boy.  He demands the boy’s lunch money.  Says a student, “It happens more to people that look weak.”

Her group is planning to stop Michael’s bullying by introducing a female peer to teach him the right way to behave.  But other groups may choose to have the victim fight back.

A twelve-year-old girl says “I used to be bullied a lot…because I carried a book with me wherever I go.  I love to read.” 

She says this is “a really good class.  It’s not just teaching me about bullies.  It’s helping me be a writer, and that’s what I want to do.”

souce: Rafael Olmeda’s 7/19/10 article at http://www.sun-sentinel.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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