JMS students try a new approach to curb bullying

Taking a stand

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Jemtegaard Middle School students (left to right) Corey Barton, Casey Schulenbarger and Kim Kanning hold signs which accompany a poem for their anti-bullying performance, based on the T.V. show, "What would you do?"

After a rash of recent tragedies, a group of Jemtegaard Middle School students are hoping to help curb the epidemic of bullying by taking an unusual approach.

Instead of having adults talk to students about bullying’s sometimes devastating impacts, the students are taking the reigns.

They’ve written and produced a video segment, based on the T.V. show, “What would you do?”

“At first, they were thinking it was just another bullying presentation and they didn’t think other students would listen,” said music teacher Jennifer Snapp. “So I asked them to figure out a way to grab their interest. Most everyone knows about this show, so it will catch their attention.”

Snapp brought the idea to the drama students after learning about two recent suicides of middle school students in the Battle Ground School District.

“Bullying is everywhere,” she said. “It is an epidemic. I am tired of seeing kids want to end their lives. It is time to stand up for each other.”

She said students who try to make a stand against bullying will often be chastised by other students.

“It’s about learning to do the right thing when it’s really hard to do so,” she said.

It used to be that bullying consisted of mean comments made at schools, prank phone calls and physical alternations. Now, rumors or negative comments spread through texting and online social media are the main weapons of choice, in addition to physical intimidation.

“There are actually entire websites against kids,” she said. “The victim will receive a text telling them to check it out, and then they see all these (negative) comments.”

The Jemtegaard students’ DVD will be shown to small groups of students this week, with a question-and-answer session afterward. Eighth-graders will lead the discussions.

“We wanted it to be small and intimate, kids talking to kids,” Snapp said.

Erin Bentley, Adela Osario, Caleb Fantini and Bryce Scruggs are helping to lead the efforts.

“We’re doing this because of all of the (school) shootings and suicides due to bullying,” said Osorio, a seventh-grader. “We want to stop it at all the schools.”

Fantini, an eighth-grader, transferred to Jemtegaard after being bullied at another school.

“It really lowers your self esteem a lot,” he said. “You really have to make a stand for yourself to get it to stop.”

Added Scruggs, an eighth-grader, “I don’t think someone should use their size to intimidate people. That’s definitely a problem here.”

Bentley, a seventh-grader, is hoping that students will take the anti-bullying messages to heart, and know that there is help for its victims.

“Don’t take your own life,” she said. “Talk to someone you can trust.”

Snapp is hoping to show the DVD to middle schoolers at Canyon Creek, and eventually to the Battle Ground School District.

“I want Jemtegaard to be known as a leader against bullying,” she said.