No one can truly know how serious name calling can be or what affects it will have on a child. It is even harder to deal with a child who has been bullied or picked on because he/she doesn’t fit in or doesn’t wear or can’t afford the latest in fashion, and doesn’t have an opportunity to talk about it openly. Hopefully, that will change this week.
On Wednesday, Sampson Middle School students dressed in red shirts in support of “National No Name Calling Week.” It’s a vow they intend to make — and keep. “No Name Calling Week” was inspired by a young adult novel entitled The Misfits, by James Howe. The novel is a story of four friends who run for student council on a “No Name Calling” platform.
“I am always trying to stay on top of school counseling trends that are going on across the nation,” said Sampson Middle School’s Karen McGee. “I noticed that a lot of schools were trying to deal with bullying issues and working to find ways to address it. One of the things that I saw come up a lot (on blogs) was ‘No Name Calling’ and ways to address that issue because that could very well lead to bullying down the road.”
McGee said when she started getting more information on the issue, she noticed that the idea was being embraced by other schools across the nation.
“I just thought it would be wonderful to have it at our school this week because we are always trying to be innovative in finding ways to reduce these incidents and create a more cooperative school environment,” she said. “We are such big believers in creating an environment where kids are willing to work together and not being hurtful with each other, and this was just a way to get that going.”
The solidarity was clear walking the halls of the school Wednesday. Most all staff members and a good portion of the 716 students were wearing red shirts. Administrators and educators had red shirts that had a black stop sign on the back with the words: No Name Calling at SMS.
“We have looked at the number of referral visits to the office,” noted counselor Katrina Boykin, “and a good portion of those were for name calling.”
Some of those names that were listed on those referrals in the roughly 500 visits since the beginning of the school year included poor, stupid, dumb, ugly, nerd, snithcd and myriad others.
“You know, it is hard to tell what name calling will do to a child,” Boykin stressed. “A lot of them laugh it off, but we really don’t know what is going on. If it is in front of a bunch of other students, walking away or laughing it off might be OK for right then, but those words could stay with them for years.”
Since Monday, Sampson Middle School students have seen video clips of the impact name calling can have and are even having discussions about the issue.
“Some times it is easier to discuss it in the classroom,” said Boykin. “In certain situations, it might be easier for that student to talk in private to a counselor.”
“I was talking to one student who got a referral and I asked why they called another student a name,” recalled McGee, “and that student said to me, ‘I was just kidding’. Just kidding may work in some certain situations where you are great friends with everybody, but it doesn’t work in every situation. It is not OK to use it as a reason why it is acceptable to call other people names. There is no reason for it.”
In addition to the video clips, McGee and Boykin have set up Safe School Boxes in the school’s cafeteria, the media center and the front office for students to anonymously report a bullying or name calling incident. Although the boxes were in place last year, they have become more effective in the battle against bullying.
“They are opened every day and our SRO officer looks through them with us,” noted Boykin. “This way if someone sees something or sees someone that is being bullied, we can look into it and handle the situation.”
Thursday students will sign a pledge not to call others names; and on Friday, a special Lunch and Learn will take place featuring students sharing their personal stories, poems, raps and skits of being bullied. The best stories chosen will have a chance to be published in a magazine and selected students will visit Sunset Avenue School to speak and give encouragement to younger students. Greg Dirks will be the guest speaker.
Sixth grade students April Brunson, Michaela McPhail, Tamra Becton and Caroline Montgomery said they were excited to be part of the event this week.
“I feel that it is a good thing for us,” said Brunson. “People don’t need to pick on people and call people names because it is mean and it really does hurt people’s feelings.”
McPhail agrees. “I hear a lot of it,” she said with honesty. “Most of the name calling brings people to tears, because it is really hurtful. So it is good that the school is doing this.”
Becton said she has witnessed the brutal aftermath of how painful words can be. “It is heartbreaking for some people,” she said. “I have seen them go in the bathroom and just cry.”
“People shouldn’t call people names,” added Montgomery, shaking her head.
All four students said they know people who have been called names, including themselves. “All of us know someone,” said Brunson. “All of us here have been called names at some time or the other too.”
Which is the point of the entire week.
“If all the effort that we are putting in, if it helps or stops one student from calling another person a name, then it has all been worth it,” adds McGee.
From the overwhelming support from the staff and students, it already has.
Sampson Middle officials say that the event is such a success and received such a positive response that it will continue next year.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.