Wapakoneta High School calculus teacher Shelly Koch talks with students who gathered in small groups with their teachers to discuss video clips as part of an anti-bullying day held Friday. Students attended four different sessions during the day as part of plans set up by a committee of teachers.
Verbal threats, name calling, rumors and tags on Facebook are all forms of bullying Wapakoneta High School students say they have experienced from other classmates.
“It’s a pretty big problem,” junior Kiesha Simpson said.
Megan Steinke, also a junior, said the biggest way students are bullied at the school is online, typically on Facebook.
“The same people do it, they just change who they do it to,” Megan said.
While the girls said for the most part they try to ignore it, name calling and gossip still hurts.
“I hope others learn today that words do hurt, that they can push people too far,” Megan said.
They also said they hoped that those who do not engage in the bullying — but maybe are not doing anything to stop it either — will take a stand.
“Talk to a teacher, tell a parent, confront them,” Megan said.
“We have to stick up for other people,” Kiesha echoed.
They said having an anti-bullying day at Wapakoneta High School on Friday was a good idea, if people will listen.
Kiesha said the shooting at Chardon High School, earlier in the week which resulted in three deaths and two injured, seems to have settled down the bullying problem, but she expects it to again grow in strength.
As anti-bullying posters lined the walls, Wapakoneta High School Principal Aaron Rex said the unfortunate events at Chardon High School earlier this week make it even more apparent of the need to make students aware of how they should treat the other individuals they come into contact with every day.
“We can only speculate about the reasons for this tragic event, but if we can make our school a place where students feel safe, care for others and stand up against bullying, it can only have a positive impact,” Rex said.
While there were no plans to talk about the shooting specifically during the day, teachers anticipated it coming up in conversations with students.
Rex said one of the goals for the high school this year was to work on the culture and climate and in doing so, focus on bullying at schools.
While pleased with a fall survey of the entire student body in which a vast majority of students said they did not experience bullying in the building, Rex said they felt if even one student was bullied it was too many.
“We want all students to feel safe and accepted in our school,” Rex said.
Wapakoneta City Schools have always taken a proactive stand when it comes to dealing with anything concerning their students, said members of Wapakoneta High School’s Anti-bullying Committee. In considering that, teachers came up with the idea to do a staff training and then dedicate an entire day to educating students on bullying. They came up with ideas for presenters, speakers, videos, discussions and skits.
Students were not advised of the day in advance, only when they came into school that morning. The high school’s approximately 1,000 students listened to four different presentations throughout the day with Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sam Blank talked about Facebook, cyberbulling and sexting.
A theater class acted out different skits involving bullying, sexting and other issues.
A speaker from Campus Impact spoke to students about their role in bullying and how they can prevent it; and students watched a series of video clips and discussed it with their teachers in small groups. The scenarios put students into positions of the bully, student being bullied, onlooker and defender to draw out their thoughts and get them thinking about their possible roles.
Prior to the students’ anti-bullying sessions, teachers spent time in staff training Friday morning during a school delay with Donna Dickman, director of the Partnership for Violence Free Families, in Lima, talking about what bullying is.
In order to help pay for the day, the school asked for community support and received $1,325 from area businesses, organizations and churches to help pay for speakers and provide snacks and drinks for the students.
Rex said the amount given shows how much the community cares for its students and the cause.
“We thought this was something important to do for our students,” Rex said. “We all know that this occurs at some point to someone and we want to put an end to it.
“No student should be bullied,” he said. “These are our kids and we care about them, we want to make our school the best it can be in every aspect.”
Recently speaking about the same issue, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said all schools should do something.
“We can all have policies in place, but what better way to handle it than to show your kids how much you care,” Rex said. “We care enough to spend an entire day on it.”
“We have had rules in place on bullying and have no tolerance for it, but it is important to revisit the continuous theme of anti-bullying in our schools,” Lori Morris said, speaking on behalf of the committee that organized the day. “It is vital we review and continue to increase the awareness and knowledge base of bullying and that every administrator, teacher, student, parent and community member play a valuable part in stopping this hurtful act.”
She said the committee suggested dedicating an entire day to bullying awareness because student surveys showed that bullying was perceived differently by each individual. The hope is that students are better prepared to deal with bullying situations once they have attended the four sessions offered Friday.
“A committee of teachers at the high school started brainstorming this project back in September, and in light of recent events, it is evident that the relevancy of this topic is important,” Morris said.
A group of freshmen boys at Wapakoneta High School said most of what they consider bullying is done on Facebook or as gossip about relationships.
Colton Brown described anti-bullying events at the school Friday as inspirational.
“We can’t have a tragedy like that (Chardon High School shooting) to happen to know we need to do something,” Brown said.
Dallas Ambos said he hoped the sessions would help more people gain the courage to stand up against bullies in the school.
“I hope people realize how much of a problem it is,” Blake Pfenning said.
“The sessions and skits with students we know in them have been pretty powerful, pretty emotional,” Isaiah Campos said. “It makes it more real.”