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Students Pledge to Black Out Bullying

By Kathryn McConnell | Staff Writer | 23 December 2011
Teens posing in front of anti-bullying poster (State Dept.)

Members of the Lake Braddock Secondary School Student Government Association pose in front of school posters pledging students' promise to stand up against bullying.

Washington — Students at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Virginia promise to do their part to “black out bullying.”

In past years, the 4,000-student school in Burke, Virginia, which is a few miles southwest of Washington, has had a day of bullying awareness-building. December 12–16 marked the first time the school devoted an entire week to the behavior, said Megan Cashman, a school counselor.

The students, ranging from grade eight to grade 12, demonstrated their resolve during activities designed to expose ways that people bully and to teach what to do if bullying or sexual harassment occurs. During the week, planned by the school’s Student Government Association and its counseling department, students signed a pledge: “On my honor, I promise to be respectful and courteous to others. I not only will refrain from bullying but prevent others from bullying.”

They also wore anti-bullying bracelets — in a style popular with American teens — and viewed a video showing how to intervene when bullying or harassment occurs.

The video exposes bullying and harassment in all their forms, from verbal comments to physical assaults to cyber-bullying, which involves posting vulgar or untrue photos or words online. It counsels students to confront a bully, tell a parent or other trusted adult, and keep a written record of the unpleasant incidents. “Don’t ignore bullying. Take a stand before it’s too late,” it says.

At the end of the week, Lake Braddock students gathered for a school assembly at which most wore black clothes as a symbolic gesture to “Black Out Bullying at Lake Braddock.”

Bullying has a significant impact on students’ school performance, according to Bullying Statistics. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. students from kindergarten to grade 12 have reported either having acted as a bully or been bullied. Half of such incidents occur online, where taunts or mean rumors are all-too-common, Bullying Statistics reports. Fear of being bullied is the cause of 15 percent of students’ school absences, the organization reports. Some bullied teens become depressed or even take their lives.

After the assembly, student Spencer Achiu, who helped organize the activities, said he was able to tell his sister, who has been teased, about the awareness events. While he wants to protect her, he said that he knows he can’t do it alone, that the whole community must improve. “Being on the committee has given me a chance to expand my response,” Achiu said.

“If just one or two kids take the anti-bullying pledge seriously, this week was worth it,” said Courtney Hale.

“We hope that through our efforts the word will spread” to other teens, added Michelle Hernandez. “The week demonstrates that a bullied student is not alone.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)