by KIM HILSENBECK
When Abigail “Abbie” Solis Cardoza, 11, left fifth grade at Hemphill Elementary at the end of the school year in May, she may have thought the bullying was over.
But on her first day of school at Simon Middle School, Abbie found that the same boy who teased her, called her names and hurt her feelings last year was back at it again this year.
“He said I was dumb. He said I was not American,” Abbie said. “It made me mad.”
Yet the look on her face as she spoke about the situation was sadness, not anger.
Abbie was one of the incoming sixth-graders at Simon attending a “No Place for Hate” assembly presented by the Anti-Defamation League last Tuesday.
The message was to “step up and speak out” – encouraging all students to stand up to bullying, even if it’s happening to someone else.
The group was watching a video called “Let’s Get Real,” a series of
vignettes of real students candidly talking about being bullied or being a bully, and how each student made a change for the better.
In one clip, a young girl shared her experience of being of Chinese ancestry but American born. She talked about a group of girls who had been her friends all year then suddenly turned on her.
“They said, ‘You look silly’ and ‘no one will have a crush on you,’” she said. “They sent me emails that said ‘everyone hates you’ and ‘they won’t be friends with you’.”
In the end, she said she finally stood up for herself.
In another vignette, a young boy talked about a new student from Iran who was an easy target because he spoke no English. The boy said other kids picked on the Iranian student – and he finally stepped in and stood up for the new kid.
“I know how it feels,” he said to the camera. “Why shouldn’t I stand up for others, too?”
After the video ended, Principal Matthew Pope, who took the reins at Simon this year, asked the sixth-graders to recall the three words they will use to tackle bullying. The group responded: Stop, Walk and Talk.
Stop – Stop listening to the bully
Walk – Walk away from the bully
Talk – Tell a teacher, counselor or principal
Pope looked out at the faces of his new students and said, “We will deal with that issue – that’s my promise to you.”
He later said that if the school determines bullying took place, there will be consequences, which may include in-school suspension, going to the Impact Center and possibly being transferred off campus to another location.
In the past, Pope said, it was the victim who transferred. But now, it’s the bully and his or her family that will have to deal with going to a new location.
How will Pope communicate the new anti-bullying policy to parents?
“We’ll have parents’ night and other outreach methods to inform the community of our new rules,” he said.
As for Abbie, she vows to tell that boy to stop, then walk away and tell a teacher.