When most people think of school bullies, they think of the charcter Nelson from “The Simpsons.” He’s a big, tough middle school student who picks on other kids and laughs at their misfortunes.
But Laura Mosman Smith, the assistant principal at the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Waltham, said that most bullies these days aren’t at all like Nelson. Instead, the bullies are engaging in hurtful activities that tend to fly under the radar of adults in charge.
“It’s the things like bullying by exclusion, where you invite three friends to your house and make sure the fourth one knows about it and knows she isn’t invited,” she said. “The more subtle things, like dirty looks and ignoring people.”
In response to recent incidents of face-to-face and cyber-bullying, the Kennedy School is hosting an all-day program for students on Thursday to raise awareness about bullying. The theme of the day is “Is It In You?” and students will be challenged to think about their actions and discuss ways to stand up against bullying.
Activities will include performances by Deana’s Educational Theater, which is doing one show for boys and one for girls, and gender-segregated group activities where students will work through different scenarios. Smith said the groups will be separated because boys and girls tend to bully differently.
“What prompted this was a conversation at the beginning, when parents came in to tell us that there was this cyber-bullying happening at home,” Smith said. There has been other anti-bullying programming at the school in the past, but this is the first time multiple offices have come together to create a full day of anti-bullying education.
Smith said the bullying at the Kennedy School has not been major, especially compared to recent events like the bullying-related suicide at South Hadley High School.
“We know that bullying happens,” Smith said, “but before anything major happens we wanted to give kids a context to think about it and learn how to stand up to it.”
The overall goal for the day, she said, is to help kids realize that they don’t have to be like Nelson to be a bully.
“We’re hoping that we raise awareness for students for all of those subtle things that they may be doing, to really examine their thoughts and actions in response to that question: Is it in you?” she said.