Anti-bullying message vital for young people in Salvation Army care

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By Brooke Turbyfill, staff writer for The Salvation Army Southern Territory publication, The Southern Spirit. Learn more at http://www.southernspiritonline.org/.

Young people are facing a barrage of bullying like never before. From cyber bullying to real-time bullying in schools, at camp and other hangouts – even church – it’s important for youth workers, parents, corps officers and anyone relating with youth to be aware of the warning signs and how to prevent bullying before it starts.

According to www.dosomething.org, 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. And in a day and age when school shootings are on the rise and, in the U.S. alone, 75% of them are linked to bullying (according to Psychology Today), it’s an issue that cannot be downplayed or ignored. In the USA Southern Territory, several commands are instituting educational programs with their students as well as training staff to be more aware of how children interact with each other.

At The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of High Point, N.C., anti-bullying education is ongoing. While a special period of time is set aside to go through a DVD curriculum with the students called Stop Bullying Now, Jesta Bouielele, unit director, and Tonya Evans, program director, said they have an open door policy and continual conversations with students about what bullying is and how it starts. “Recently I had a situation where my 8-and-up were walking a fine line – picking on people, making people cry – so I made them act out a skit and put themselves in the other people’s shoes. We also went online and showed them videos on anti-bullying,” said Bouielele.

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Smith said they’re most on guard with the older elementary and middle school students. “High schoolers know about it; now it’s more of the middle school age.” Cyber-bullying is prevalent at this age, said Evans, because while the students are old enough and tech-savvy enough to use the Internet, they often do not consider the ramifications of what is posted online.

Bouielele said it’s important to stay on top of the kinds of social media students are using. She has found that SnapChat, “where you take a photo, post it, comment and it’s deleted within 10 seconds,” is harmful because it’s misleading. The kids think that a post will be deleted and there’s nothing wrong with it, but what they’re not aware of is that someone can download that photo and have it on their computer or phone forever. She said it’s important to have an open door policy, where kids as young as 5 all the way up through eighth grade, have been having regular conversations with staff about the issue so if they’re ever made to feel uncomfortable, they know it’s safe – and expected – to speak up.

The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Greensboro, N.C., recently hosted an anti-bullying concert featuring rising music group “Trending Topic.” During the concert, the singing group not only shared the consequences of bullying, but also encouraged students to take a pledge against bullying.

“We try to make anti-bullying a theme throughout our Boys and Girls Club program,” said Grace Thompson, unit director in Greensboro. “We do not have a specific curriculum, but rather have many ideas and activities that we implement sporadically as bullying is an ongoing issue for many of our club members. We have used the Cartoon Network anti-bullying video and comic books for the younger age group. With our older age groups, we implement a bullying questionnaire anonymously detailing whether they have been bullied in the past, if they have ever bullied, etc. This gives us a place to start – we then implement crafts, group conversations, online videos and the movie ‘Bully’ to try and help club members understand that if they are being bullied, they are not alone, and also to stand up for those who need help.”

In Sumter, S.C., the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club addresses bullying through its partnership with Sumter County Prevention Team. Topics such as bullying and problem solving are discussed as part of the Health and Personal Development Life Skill Training Classes. Resources

The Anderson, S.C., Boys and Girls Club, in partnership with Kohl’s department store, recently presented sessions on bullying and the impact it has on students over the course of several weeks. At the end of the sessions, students took part in the Cartoon Network’s SpeakUp Pledge and together raised the SpeakUp flag to let everyone know about the club being a “Bully Free Zone.”

“The students really seem to understand the impact bullying can have on others’ lives, especially once they watched the video from Cartoon Network,” said John Crosby, executive director. To remind the students about their pledge to speak up against bullying, students were given a copy of the book “Be Yourself” by Charles Schulz.

In Atlanta The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center partners with the Ryan Cameron Foundation; Ryan Cameron is an afternoon drive radio host on V-103, as well as the in-game announcer for the NBA Atlanta Hawks. He started the Ryan Cameron Foundation in 2002 to empower local youth through mentoring, tutoring, volunteering, self-reflection and leadership instruction.

The Kroc center partners with the foundation during its annual Youth Anti-Violence Forum, where topics include teen safe driving and anti-bullying. In 2014, the Kroc center hosted the event for the third consecutive year, averaging 150-200 participants, which includes breakout sessions for students and parents about the importance of community as well as anti-bullying, gang violence and teen safe driving.

Another approach to anti-bullying focuses on the students taking ownership of their actions. At the Burlington, N.C., Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, kids are encouraged to be “caught being great” as part of the program of the same name. Throughout the week, kids who are caught doing something kind towards another are selected by staff to be added to the “Caught Being Great” box. On Fridays, everyone whose name is in the box gets recognized with a certificate and on the club Facebook page.

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Ryan Cameron donated $1,000 to The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Atlanta as part of an anti-violence forum.

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Kids at the Burlington, NC Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club who were recognized as “Caught Being Great” as part of the program of the same name.