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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Freeport High School stages bullying video
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times, by Jason Carson Wilson
2013-04-17

This article shared 2929 times since Wed Apr 17, 2013
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FREEPORT—In some ways, it still hasn't gotten better in high school. Bullying still happens. Freeport High School junior Haley Swords said students can face different types of torment.

"There's a lot of cyberbullying in our school," Swords said, acknowledging some bullies still go "old-school" and resort to name-calling. Swords was among students who did something—rather than just talking—about bullying.

She and fellow broadcasting class students staged an educational flash mob at Freeport's Lincoln Mall, featured in a YouTube video. (The video is at www.youtube.com/watch; "Some Nights," by the group fun., accompanied the performance. Kristen Dace, a senior and Poms Team member, said choreography took about three weeks.

According to reports, nearly 300,000 students are attacked—in school—each month.

Stark statistics on six signs helped drive home their message. For instance, 75 percent of school shooting incidents have been linked to harassment and bullying, according to the class' research.

The city of about 26,000 people is about 100 miles northwest of Chicago.

"One of the main messages to get across is bullying happens," senior Ashley Alexander said.

Alexander also said the message, like the school itself, is diverse. Witnessing the diverse group "coming together to send one message is a strong thing to see," she said. Senior Justice McKinney shared a wish about what the video could for underclassmen.

"It would inspire them to be better people," McKinney said.

Broadcasting teacher Tim Connors said the video got rave reviews. Connors said students were not only attentive, but talkative about the video.

"It's been a pretty positive response," he said.

That response has included a story in the local paper as well as national attention, thanks to the Associated Press. Connors appreciated that the students' efforts put Freeport in a positive light.

"It's not just our school," he said. "It's every school."

According to another statistic in the video, one in seven K-12 students is either a bully or being bullied.

Senior Bryn Buckwalter said bullying can begin at home. Buckwalter said students often bring home-related stress to school.

Another sign, featured in the video, noted more than 50 percent of students polled believed witnessing physical abuse at home can manifest into violence at school. More than 60 percent of students said students shoot others because of physical abuse at home.

While she and fellow students created the anti-bullying video, it wasn't their idea. Freeport Police Officer JoLynn Sanders' deserves that credit. Sanders serves as the high school's resource officer. A Rockford television station's coverage of bullying prompted her to take action.

"That was really unnerving," Sanders said. "I made the decision to deal with it. [But] I wouldn't say Freeport had a major issue."

Reaching high school students was her goal. Their peers, Sanders learned, would be the representatives of the message. She more than appreciated their enthusiasm for the project.

"Their eyes opened wide and they got really excited," Sanders said. "I'm so proud…I almost started crying [when I saw the video]."

Seeing the video surprised Sanders. The public at large, she said, seems flabbergasted that bullying exists. After all, students bully for any reason, from sexual orientation to fashion choices.

"People are shocked that it's so pervasive," Sanders said.

Some changes have eased certain types of bullying, according to Sanders. For instance, Freeport School District 145 requires uniforms, giving bullies one less reason to tease.

"It's made [school] a more relaxed place," Sanders said.

She noted that race has never really been a factor.

Connors was thankful for the chance to teach more than practical skills.

"I like to be able to have a class where you can learn some life lessons," he said.

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)'s 2011 National School Climate Survey found that 8 out of 10 LGBT students—or nearly 82 percent—experienced harassment, while more than 63 percent felt unsafe and about 30 percent of them skipped a day of school out of fear.


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