Girls work to stop bullying

A group of Wapakoneta eighth-graders decided after watching a boy they didn’t know being picked on that they wanted to do something themselves to take action against bullying.

Watching the fifth-grader who was about to sit down at a cafeteria table instead be pushed down into other students by a sixth-grader while he laughed, prompted the group to find some way to help the situation they were seeing with other young teens.

So the girls, Hannah Meeker, Chelsie Cochran, Kalia Schlenker, Monica Metzger, Danielle Kessen and Lauren Drake, decided to spread the message that “It isn’t big to make others feel small,” and branded it onto rubber bracelets. Inside each bracelet is the simple reminder to “Stop bullying.”

Proceeds from selling the bracelets are to go toward Rachel’s Challenge, a national anti-bullying program implemented in the district in remembrance of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. The campaign strives to “create a chain of kindness.”

“I hope it goes toward kids who have suicidal thoughts because of bullying,” Chelsie said of her specific goals for the money they are able to raise.

“At Wapak bullying is big,” she said.

While the girls know the problems with it they have witnessed at Wapakoneta Middle School, they are still unsure what to expect of high school.

“Hopefully, it will get better, they’ll be more mature,” Monica said.

Going around in a circle giving examples, the friends said they have seen bullying toward classmates in the form of pushing and shoving, bad language and name calling, and cyber bulling, which is particularly bad on Facebook, where students post videos and make comments about others beginning with the popular phrase, “Truth is you’re…”

One such recent post was about wanting a classmate to die in a hole, the girls said, and others are full of words they would not repeat.

If anyone says anything about the behavior or comments, the girls said they are told they are ratting them out.

By selling the gray bracelets for $2 each, Hannah said they are hoping to raise at least a few hundred dollars for the cause and to present a united front.

They didn’t get the bracelets until the end of the school year, so they couldn’t sell them there, but are hoping to bring awareness to the issue just the same by spreading the message in other ways and selling them at locations in their hometowns of Wapakoneta and Cridersville.

Their next step is to get shirts made that also feature anti-bullying messages.

“We plan to get more actively involved,” Hannah said.

“We know lots of kids it happens to and have seen it more,” she said. “We are looking for ways we can help.”

Danielle said unfortunately, some people are just mean and they want to help give classmates the courage to stand up against them to help others.

“If you see someone getting bullied we want them to be able to step up and tell an adult,” Danielle said.

“If it’s cyber bullying, print it out and give it to the school or report it to Facebook so they are warned,” she said.

Hannah’s mom, Sherri Utz, said parents also need to be more involved and if their children have Facebook accounts, they should either have access to the page or the account password. She also recommended taking another step and reading texts exchanged between young teenagers.

The 13- and 14-year-olds said most of them created their Facebook pages as fifth-graders and that not all of their parents have access to their accounts.

For those using Facebook and other such mediums to bully others, Utz said it’s cowardly, the easy way to pick on someone without directly confronting them.

“We want to stop bullying,” Kalia said.

The girls said while it’s always been there, starting with tripping as early as kindergarten, it continues to escalate through the years, so that now Lauren said students push each other, cuss, fight and name call, which has a far reaching impact on the victim.

“You see the start of it in late elementary school,” Lauren said.