Working together to eradicate bullying

Middle school celebrates first Unity Day

By Ruthann Carr, Correspondent

Fluvanna Middle School is doing a good job of teaching about and trying to eradicate bullying.

That’s what Billie Davis thinks after experiencing bullying through her granddaughter.

Davis’ granddaughter was stabbed by a fellow student in elementary school, so Davis moved back to her native Fluvanna.

Davis homeschooled her for two years but decided to send her to Fluvanna Middle School (FMS) in 2016.

Shortly after her first day she suffered a sprained ankle when pushed by another student, Davis said.

How FMS staff handled the situation was surprisingly positive, Davis said.

“It was like ‘Yes, it’s a problem,’ but it was refreshing because they approached it like, ‘It happened, and we need to work on it.’

[My granddaughter] will tell you the fact that somebody, an adult, intervened – that someone believed her – made all the difference in the world on how she feels about going to school.”

October was bullying prevention month and FMS held special activities throughout the month.

Davis visited FMS on Unity Day (Oct. 24). She saw students, teachers and school staff dressed in orange to demonstrate unity against bullying.

“[Principal Brad] Stang and the administration handed out kindness bracelets,” Davis said. “Kids made posters with kindness as the theme. Mr. Stang and his staff are all about sending the message of respecting self, classmates, teachers and staff.”

Vice Principal Rebecca Smith said on Unity Day, staff and students discussed ways to empower victims of bullying while roleplaying with a special guest speaker, educator, fifth-degree black belt, and local business owner Rob Silverman.

Throughout the month, students participated in lessons during Community Hour related to recognizing and reporting bullying and being an upstander. “An upstander is the student who speaks up when he or she recognizes something is wrong or that bullying is occurring,” Smith said. “He or she may intervene in the moment by addressing the bully directly or reporting the happening to an adult.”

Students participated in activities including creating an orange unity chain in the library with the names of all staff and students.

Stang said early on in his tenure he knew he and his staff needed to take an active role in building and promoting positive behavior.

“We are proud to have celebrated Unity Day for the first time this year,” Stang said. “Bullying prevention is an ongoing focus for us at FMS and creating a culture of kindness and respect for each other is at the forefront of what we are doing. It’s not just a one-day event for us.”

The week of Oct. 20 Freddy Jackson from the Love No Ego Foundation shared his message of youth empowerment and bullying prevention.

“We plan to continue the positive momentum with a year-long student-initiated Fluco Kindness campaign during which students are challenged to act kindly and respectfully with one another throughout the year,” Stang said.

Davis said the whole atmosphere at FMS impressed her.

“Kindness was the emphasis,” she said. “I took a tour of the school and Mr. Stang is really trying quite hard to take unused areas of the school to make studying/discussion and tutoring/mentoring areas for students. I applaud them for being proactive…now let the community in on what’s happening so parents can back up the administration and teachers thereby helping the students. It would certainly make a difference in what people presume incorrectly about their tax dollar at work in education in their schools.”

Davis has a pragmatic view about bullying.

“Just like adults, we have mean-spirited people and it’s just the way it is,” she said. “It took a lot for [my granddaughter] to enter school here but it made significant growth in her to see adults trying to fix things so people feel safe. There is social/emotional learning going on and restorative practices. [Reports of bullying are] listened to, believed, clarified, and investigated to a point of satisfaction of all parties.”

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