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Beline Obeid

Pierce pledges to stop bullying

Pierce Middle School students signed their handprints as a pledge to prevent bullying at school. photo by Renee Landuyt.

October 11, 2012
Eighth grader Daniel Kuhnlein recalls a segment in last year's Pierce Pride show. It featured a survey, he said, in which 98 percent of people claimed, if witnessed, they'd stop a bullying incident. But when confronted with such a situation, the segment showed the majority of bystanders weren't so forthcoming in their support. "They were filming someone and then someone started beating up someone in the hallway or started calling them names or something, and one out of like seven kids had stopped it," Kuhnlein said. "People are like, 'Oh, I didn't realize that was bullying but now I do." Kuhnlein and the 500- plus students and staff at Pierce Middle School aren't accepting any more excuses. Last month, the school made a pledge to stop bullying, to hold each other accountable for any occurrence. Student Ricky Berg had the idea during advisory class, and a visual representation of the pledge, a collection of about 20 8-foot posters fi lled with students' handprints and signatures, now hangs at the school, a powerful reminder that bullying isn't tolerated at Pierce. "Our handprints bound us to this commitment that we're going to stop this, that we're going to be the fi rst school to end bullying," eighth grader Fiona Costello said. "We don't accept it anymore; it's not going to be in our schools." Students made the pledge after witnessing Fenton teacher Lori Thompson's Trust Theatre Ensemble's performance of "The Bullycide Project," a performance featuring teenagers speaking honestly and emotionally about surviving their experiences with bullying. It's based on Brenda High's book "Bullycide in America," a collection of true stories written by mothers who've lost a child to suicide due to excessive bullying. "Part of the job of the Bullycide Project was to show kids no matter how bad it can get, we are survivors and we're telling our story," said Pierce principal Gary Buslepp, who said members of Pierce's anti-bullying committee, headed by Gina Walker and Christine Cramer, learned of the project two years ago while at a bullying summit in Lansing. "They brought some interesting things back with them, but one of the things they brought back was this performance done by the Trust Theatre Ensemble out of Fenton, Michigan," he said. "I was a little nervous at fi rst as it was on stage because it's a tough, emotional topic for middle school kids to hear about. But what safer place than a school to hear about it?" The performance, sponsored and underwritten by Pierce's Parent Teacher Organization, had an instant and profound impact on students, particularly in its bullying prevention message: See it, hear it, STOP it. And now that they've heard the message, student William Muawad said, "it's more awareness about it and we know what to do now. I mean, we did, but we, the teachers look for it now because they can see it." And the students won't accept it any more either. "I just want everyone to know that bullying," Kuhnlein said, "it doesn't fi t in to this school." For more about bullying, The Family Center continues its five-part series on bullying for parents, educators and caregivers. The third seminar is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Parcells Middle School, and features local law enforcement and Parcells, Brownell and Pierce principals — Cathryn Armstrong, Mike Dib and Buslepp, respectively — speaking on the consequences of bullying. "If schools are about education and learning," Buslepp said, "then we have to make sure that we're doing our job to teach the fallout from bullying and not just wait for it to happen and give the kid a consequence."

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