The public and private sector are joining ranks to beef up local anti-bullying efforts.
Home Street Middle School Principal Patrick Twomey said that when Carri Coudek of Happy-Hoods approached him about coming on board the school’s anti-bullying campaign, he said, “‘Absolutely, that fits in beautifully’ (and) we jumped at the chance” to collaborate.
“Coudek has pushed the anti-bullying campaign in the community and Happy-Hoods is the face of that effort,” added Twomey. In fact, Happy-Hoods sweatshirts are now the official Home Street Middle School shirt.
Under Twomey’s leadership, the middle school has created and implemented an extensive, multi-faceted anti-bullying campaign, using approaches that are educational, supportive and anonymous.
Twomey said the anti-bullying program has been in full swing since September 2011. Initiatives range from something as simple as knowing school mottoes, such as “If you see something, say something,” explained Twomey, to wear-red Fridays. That is when the entire staff wears bright, Colts-red “Bullying STOPS Here” T-shirts. Bullying Stops Here is a grassroots student-generated movement, explained Twomey, that started in Canada when a boy who wore pink to school was harassed and bullied. Two popular boys took note and stood up for the boy, coming to school the next day dressed, head to toe, in pink. Home Street Middle Schoolers wear red simply because it is the school color, said Twomey.
The entire middle school student body attended motivational speaker John Vandenburgh’s cyberbullying prevention assembly.
According to the school’s report of the event, one Home Street student said, “When you stick up for at least one person who is getting bullied, you can really save a life. So jump in and help when someone is getting bullied.” Another (said), “We need to stop bullying because it is not gong to stop itself … Let’s go out there and show (the victims) that we care. They have the same rights, they shouldn’t be getting bullied … ever.”
To further instill the concept of proactive student leadership and activism, Twomey has implemented WEB, a student leadership program that meets every morning – the acronym stands for Where Everybody Belongs, said the principal. There are close to 40 eighth-graders currently enrolled in WEB, he said, and these eighth-graders are learning to serve as mentors for incoming sixth-graders.
“WEB leaders learn leadership skills and the importance of relationship building. They are mentoring the sixth graders by passing on proven strategies that make middle school kids successful. The WEB leaders work to provide a positive school culture and one avenue they make that happen is by visiting all the sixth grade Homerooms and lead class discussions,” said Twomey.
Monday, Sept. 17 marked the school’s self-declared Bully Awareness Week. Each morning, during announcements, “the middle school’s multimedia class airs Public Service Announcements and short video clips about the negative impact of bullying on targeted student and on the importance of standing up to bullying,” said Twomey. Furthermore, Vice Principal Derek Moisant reviewed the bullying discipline policy with all students,” outlining avenues available to student to anonymously report bullying: the Anti-bully Hotline at (760) 872-5122, two Bully Boxes located in the hallways and texting reports to firstname.lastname@example.org .
From Sept. 17-26, Wild Iris brought their Youth Violence Prevention Program into to the middle school’s P.E. classes so that every child had an opportunity to hear their message which identifies the different types of bullying, prevention techniques, and where to go for help.
“I’m hearing a different buzz in the hallways at this school. It’s positive. The (WEB) class I’m working with is amazing. They have lots of new (anti-bullying) ideas … songs, skits,” said Coudek. Coudek is involved once a week, working with WEB teacher school teacher Shelly Daugherty, to promote a positive school culture,” said Twomey.
The new official school jacket is available in a variety of colors and sizes for $30 for adults and $25 for children. Oct. 24 is the deadline for students and staff to buy their Happy-Hoods sweatshirt so that everyone can suit up in time for a school-wide assembly, when everyone will take the Happy-Hoods anti-bullying pledge in unison.
Twomey and Coudek encourage the community to buy Happy-Hoods sweatshirts at the school or by downloading an order form from the school’s website at www.bishopschools.org .
More than 20 sweatshirts have been purchased already. And the school plans to buy more to be given out as incentive gifts. For example, the names of students who excel at school-wide academic quizzes like the “Geography Challenge” or who have had perfect attendance for the month, will go into a lottery. The winning names will receive a Happy-Hoods sweatshirt.
As unique as these sweatshirts are, the school’s are not ordinary Happy-Hoods sweatshirts. “Home Street Middle School” and the colt logo are emblazoned on the right hand sleeve of the school’s version.
Happy-Hoods continues to pursue avenues for its philanthropic endeavors. “We will donate $1 for every shirt sold” to the Home Street Middle School scholarship pool.
“Each bullying case is unique and as such each consequence is unique … Consequences can range from counseling sessions and parent conferences to suspension and placement changes. The school can also insist on (outside) counseling as an option,” said Twomey. “As a school and as a community, we know (bullying) exists and we’re dong something about it.”
When Coudek asked the WEB students to sing the Home Street Middle School Happy-Hoods anti-bullying theme song, one student knew every word by heart. Eighth-grader Victor Esquivel, who co-wrote the song with his fellow WEBs, sang without hesitation, “My seatshirt has a first name; it’s H-A-P-P-Y. My sweatshirt has a second name; it’s H-O-O-D-S. Oh, I love to wear it every day and if you ask me why, I’ll say, because Home Street has a special way of stopping bullies every day.” Esquivel added, “I hope that we stop bullying.”
Although Happy-Hoods are now being worn internationally (in Belgium and England, so far), Coudek’s main focus remains on firmly grounded in the now, she says. Working locally with kids of all ages, Coudek says she will continue to work in partnership with Twomey and Home Street Middle School and other organizations interested in raising awareness about the pervasive nature of bullying, empowerment for its victims and prevention through public unity.