Silence Hurts – middle school students tackle bullying
Recent events in Florida middle schools have prompted school districts to develop anti-bullying programs. In October, 2009, Michael Brewer was assaulted and set on fire in a bicycle theft incident. The 7th-grader survived and the kids involved were prosecuted.
Then, in March, 2010, an 8th grade student was beaten at a bus stop for texting a 15 year old boy about his dead brother. The girl survived the attack and her assailant is facing an attempted murder charge.
The Broward County School District developed its “Silence Hurts” program to encourage students to anonymously report bullying and threats of violence. A group of 50 teenagers at Dania Beach schools is working on a book called “I Was a Bully . . .But I Stopped.” It will be published in August, 2010 and distributed throughout Broward County schools. Local author, Bob Knotts, came up with the idea because “Bullying really hurts everybody in school, and it takes everybody to stop it.”
The story line the students are working on includes two characters. Lucinda is a white girl from a wealthy family whose parents have recently divorced. She’s privileged so why shouldn’t she hold it over those who are not? Michael is a 12-year-old boy with a black father and Asian mother. He learns how to be abusive from watching the way his dad treats his mom.
A bully is the main character in the book. The students are working together to develop a realistic way for the bully to change before the story’s end. Through the process of change, the bully becomes almost as sympathetic as the victim. The writers are dealing with how it feels to be a victim, the root causes of bullying and how to fight back when bullying occurs. Bob Knotts will take elements from all of the stories and blend them into two tales: one about Michael and one about Lucinda.