When bullies attack
Playing the role of bullies, (l) Brett Faraason, 8, and Javon Valentine, 10, hurl insults at (l) Khylaa Sandoval, 9, and Kaithlyn Casper, 9, during a skit at Netzaberg School Age Center, March 13. The students are part of the Bully Blocker program which aims to give students the tools to stick up for targets of bullying.

ESCHENBACH, Germany -- Bullies are finding little acceptance at Netzaberg School Age Center.

Thanks to the Bully Blockers program implemented in the beginning of March, tyrants are being shown their actions are no longer tolerated.

Bully Blockers aims to teach children how and when to stand up for each other with the hope that these acts will create a culture hostile to bullies.

Wendy Kummerer, University of Southern California social work intern for Child, Youth and School Services, developed the program for her Masters in Social Work.

She tailored tried and proven techniques to combat bullying to the children and atmosphere of NSAC. The push is part of a greater CYSS focus on bullying.

The emphasis, explained Kummerer, is creating a community where students know they can communicate with and rely on each other and the staff.

"When there's more social pressure to do the right thing, hopefully (bullying) will stop," said Kummerer.

An essential aspect of the program was defining "bully." For the program to be effective the children need to know what distinguishes true bullying from childhood teasing, said Director of Netzaberg School Age Center Mike Andrus.

Both staff and children learned the bully-victim relationship. Bullies target victims they can overpower, and over time, demean and harm them.

On March 13, the group addressed "Who are bullies" The students broke into groups with each student playing a different role; there was the bully and the victim and also onlookers.

The bullies would steal the victims' ball during a game; pull their braids; kick over their milk at lunch; or hurl insults.

Onlookers practiced standing up to the bully to defend the victim. They hugged the shaken victim while reprimanding the aggressor, saying, "How would you like it if someone attacked you?" or "Hey, stop pulling people's hair."

By teaching students how to support the target, rather than the aggressor, Bully Blockers builds a support system within their community, said Andrus, adding, "We're letting them know they're not alone."

Some of the students quickly grasped this concept.

"People need to start being friends because trouble is all over and the followers are making as much trouble as the troublemaker," said Ariel Paul, 7.

"People need to start standing up and then get a staff member or a teacher or other adult," Paul suggested.

Kummerer said the children surprised the staff with a candor and willingness to share their experiences with bullying.

"They're just waiting for someone to ask them how they're doing," she said.

As a new program, Bully Blockers will likely grow and adapt to fit what works with the children. However, empowering the students to protect each other will remain central.

"We're trying to give them the tools to stop it themselves," said Kummerer.

Page last updated Tue March 25th, 2014 at 00:00