South Anchorage School Makes Bold Promise to Stop Bullying
By Jeannine Stafford-Jabaay
Bullying in schools and online has become an epidemic across the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 160,000 kids per day skip school for fear of being bullied.
The lasting effects for both the bullied and the bully can be devastating and lifelong, sometimes ending in suicide or murder. Former President Barack Obama once stated, “We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage.”
One South Anchorage principal has decided to take proactive action against bullying in their school. Sami Graham, Elementary Principal at Grace Christian School, has launched an all-school program called “The Bold Promise.”
“The Bold Promise is a pledge that every child in the elementary school signed,” shares Graham. “It is a pledge against bullying and against being a bystander of bullying, but it is also a pledge to model respectful behavior.”
The Bold Promise was instituted at Grace this school year during their first assembly of the year. The elementary teachers have been taught how to demonstrate it in their classrooms, the recess duties reinforce it on the playground, and each family received a copy of the Bold Promise so that the parents can be consistent with it at home.
While the leadership of the school recognizes that they cannot witness or stop every case of bullying, they are confident that The Bold Promise is a commitment to eradicating the root of bullying: fear. Fear of speaking up, fear of defending the weak, fear of standing up for one’s self, and fear of telling someone who can help.
“The best part of The Bold Promise is that I see it working everyday: on the playground, in the hallways, and in the classrooms. Bullying is rare in our school, but it still happens, and it can have lifelong effects,” states Graham.
The American Society for the Positive Care of Children defines bullying as aggressive behavior that includes an imbalance of power and which is repetitive. This aggression can take the form of making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone verbally or physically, or excluding someone from a group on purpose. The American SPPC published that 30 percent of youth admit to bullying, one in three students state they have been bullied in school, and 70 percent say that they have witnessed bullying.
But there is great hope. In his observational article, “Peer Interventions in Playground Bullying. Social Development,” D.L. Hawkins reports that when bystanders intervene, bullying most often stops within ten seconds. “The Bold Promise empowers all students to speak up and not be a bystander,” says Graham. “Students feel safer. They have a common language and common standard of right and wrong. Now, when they see something wrong happen, they understand that they can be bold and speak up. They feel safe.”
Nationwide movements against bullying such as The Bold Promise have sprung up at many schools across the United States. Programs such as “Stop Bullying Now” and “Just Say Yes” have made a positive impact toward reducing the devastating statistics and tragic stories as a result of bullying.