New Media Producer: Rachel Chambliss
Bullying – it happens in nearly every school across the country.
Both Illinois and Indiana have laws in place to protect students, and Kentucky has anti-bullying legislation this year in the General Assembly.
But what does it take to truly put an end to bullies who can make some students afraid to go to school?
Newswatch talks with one local high school that’s doing what they can to stop this intimidation in its tracks.
The rash of school shootings around the turn of the millennium all shared one thing in common: the student gunmen were described as “loners” who suffered attacks by bullies for years.
After that, Boonville High School decided to take steps to make every student feel welcome and free from the fear of intimidation or violence.
It’s called the Pioneer Kick Off Mentoring Program, and it’s pioneering the way to a better school environment.
Starting high school can be intimidating and just down right scary.
John Talley, a freshman at Boonville High School, says, “Whenever I first came here, I always had this fear, you know, like are the upper-classmen going to be bullying us, are all these rumors true?”
Talley soon found out that at Boonville High School that isn’t the case. Thanks to junior Ryan Persinger, John’s mentor. Ryan comments, “He’s (John’s) a pretty cool little freshman.”
Ryan is one of about 70 upper-classmen mentors. These students go through training over the summer and are assigned a maximum of five freshman at the start of the school year for orientation, but the mentoring doesn’t stop there.
Abbie Redmon, Boonville’s guidance counselor, explains, “The students will meet then monthly in the homerooms, and will cover a variety of different topics.”
But the mentoring program goes far beyond those monthly meetings. Instead, it goes outside the classroom and into different social interactions.
John says, “Every morning, I’m walking through the hallway, and I’ll see Ryan walk by.” Ryan continues, “And usually I try and say, ‘Hi – hey John, how are you doing? How’s your mom? Whatever.'”
The juniors and seniors really take ownership of the freshman in their group, a feeling that spreads across the student body.
“If another junior or senior tried to bully or make fun of a freshman, a lot of times the mentors will step up and say, ‘Wait a minute – he’s my guy or my girl, my freshman – and I’m not going to allow this to happen,'” explains Redmon.
The program also gives the students someone to talk to about everything from academics to problems at home.
John, describing his and Ryan’s relationship, says, “He’s gone through the same problems I’ve probably gone through as a freshman, so he can probably give me advice about what to do.”
And an understanding ear helps to stop problems before they get blown out of proportion or even violent.
Ron Rogier, the program’s founder, replies, “Its showed a lot of people around here that our students, particularly the upper-classmen, were very willing to be a part of the solution.”
A solution to school bullying that has student befriending student and reaching beyond the hallway.
Ryan says, “He’s (John’s) my little buddy.”
The program has been a part of Boonville High School for the past three years and is still going strong.
Many other schools have similar programs set up for their students because they are realizing the harmful effects bullying can have on students.
– Kim Dacey