Sikeston students stand up to bullies

By Crystal Britt
SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Bullying's an age old problem, but it seems to only be getting worse.  Local school leaders are doing what they can to come up with new and creative ways to target the issue.  In Sikeston, they're taking some new approaches.
It starts at the youngest level, even at pre-school.  At Matthews Elementary in Sikeston, the children make pledges to stand up to bullying.  They've signed their names making that commitment.
"We're taking a more proactive stance on bullying," said Helen Hensley, preschool/kindergarten counselor. "We want the students to know they have a part in it also."
At the 5th and 6th grade center, posters fill the school.  Students show through bold letters and pictures how they feel about bullies.
"When I was in school, a lot of times a bully would pick on someone and everyone else would stand around and watch," said Hensley. "We want them to understand that doesn't work. They have to stand up to the person and then the bully will learn he doesn't have the power he thinks he has." 
Student Claudia Davis talks about bullying she's seen on the high school level.
"Being excluded from going to lunch with someone like not being able to sit at lunch with each other. Then there are the more physical things like fighting, calling people bad names and writing bad things about people," said Davis. 
As for who's worse at bullying...boys or girls? Davis says, "I think girls are the more caddy type of bullies...the behind the scenes I'm going to spread rumors about you and boys are more physical."
Tonya Johnson is a counselor in the 5th and 6th grade center.  She describes a very popular system in the Sikeston School District...The Bully Box.
"They fold the piece of paper up and we check it every day, sometimes twice a day," said Johnson. 
Students can describe who made the threat and what happened.
"You can ruin somebody's reputation for example, if it's bullying girls, there's been instances as in cyber bullying where people have done such drastic things as commit suicide. It's an issue in the nation we need to be addressing," said Johnson. 
It's with the hopes kids will stand up to those bullies.
"If something's going on we want to make them aware they need to tell somebody. Tell a teacher, tell a principal...whoever. Tell an adult who's around that something's wrong," said Hensley. 
At the Sikeston School District they're also bringing bullying prevention into the classroom at all levels with regular instruction to keep the issue in the forefront.