By Dijon Rolle, USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public AffairsNovember 7, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Heidelberg High School faculty and staff members gathered in the school's gymnasium Friday to show their support for the school's latest initiative against bullying.
Group members, several of whom were clad in navy-blue and gold school sweatshirts and 'stop bullying now' stickers, took turns signing copies of the Heidelberg High School Anti-Bullying Pledge. The pledge is designed to help faculty and staff educate and empower students to take a stand against bullying.
Superintendent of the Heidelberg School District, Steven L. Sanchez, and Chief of staff of the Heidelberg District Carol Kuzmick, also signed and presented the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe Anti-Bullying Proclamation to Heidelberg High School principal Kevin Brewer.
"We look at this as a year-round program. We don't just put it aside at the end of the month. This is not just a one-time thing. But we will continue throughout the school year, because it's important for us to have a united effort," Brewer said.]
Copies of the blue and yellow teacher and faculty anti-bullying pledges will soon join a sea of student pledges covering a large wall near the school's entrance. Sarah Hart, a freshman at the school, said she saw the pledge as a way to help fellow students.
"I signed it, because I feel like I should take a stand for my friends," Hart said. "If I see one of my friends being bullied or someone I don't even know being bullied, I want to stand up for them. I don't want them to be hurt or scared to come back to school. I want them to have fun and enjoy their time here," Hart said.
Seniors were the first to sign the school's student anti-bullying pledges and add them to the growing wall. "I think by having the Seniors sign it first, it set the right example for the rest of the student body. It also gives us all a sense of unity and if we feel unity with each other, then we're less likely to put each other down," said Heidelberg Senior Celina Frye.
Assistant Principal Connie Turner, an educator for 40 years, spearheaded much of the school's recent anti-bullying initiative, including the pledge and proclamation signings.
"It's to help safeguard kids so they can feel free. It's important that we empower them so that they can respond appropriately if they are being bullied," Turner said. "If a student is being bullied, they should report it to a trusted adult and when they go to that adult, that adult will come to me as the assistant principal. We will then have a conversation with the student [suspected of bullying,] call his or her parents." A 3-day suspension may also be issued.
Turner offered this advice to parents who suspect their child may a victim of bullying: "Parents can talk with their children and share with teachers and administration when they feel there is a problem, but I think that the best thing for parents, teachers, administrators and the community working together is to empower students so that they can react appropriately," Turner said. "Usually bullying escalates. So, if you don't stop it when it first starts, it will escalate. It's important for us to react and react quickly."
Turner said in addition to the pledges and ongoing education efforts, the school's drama and video communications clubs collaborated earlier this year to produce anti-bullying public service announcements that air on the school's information channel.
Educators have also pulled from public examples, like Wisconsin television anchor Jennifer Livingston, who publicly responded to comments made by a male viewer who criticized her weight. "Bullying is not just in schools, but it's also in the workplace, and it's not just students that experience it, but adults are experiencing it, too," Turner said.
More school-wide programs are planned.