Students at Sunset Ridge tell bullies: ‘Not in our school’
anti – A prefix meaning “against,” “opposite of.”
bully – noun. A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.
At Sunset Ridge Middle School, 24 Anti-Bully Ambassadors are redefining the power kids have when they unite against bullies. The Ambassadors campaign against bullying of any kind in their school, organizing activities throughout the year to promote the anti-bullying message, like flash mobs, a “Not in Our School” Sticky Note Day, and they have even traveled to elementary schools to share with younger kids.
Now, even the Disney Channel has taken notice.
Sunset Ridge’s anti-bully campaign is part of a three-year comprehensive character development program, the brainchild of guidance counselor Julie Scherzinger. She explains that the program emphasizes civic responsibility—on being a good person. The first year focused on empathy, this school year focuses on respect, and the third year will be about celebrating diversity.
Scherzinger pulled ideas from several places and has tailored them to her school. She explained the program communicates with kids in the way they communicate—mainly through social media and texting.
At the beginning of the year, the program focused on anti-bullying, educating students on the different types of bullying, how to protect yourself, what to do in certain situations, who to tell, etc.
Students signed a banner pledging not to bully others. They got T-shirts with Falcons Against Bullying on the front and the Not in Our School logo on the back (based on the nationwide effort to eradicate prejudice called “Not in Our Town”). They also received a plastic wristband with a number to text in and anonymously report any bullying they might see. Scherzinger said the text line has helped nip bullying in the bud.
The next step was teaching students what teachers and administrators did want to see. “It’s a necessary evil to teach about the bullying, but we would much rather focus on good behavior,” Scherzinger said. The Falcon text line can be also be used to report someone treating others well. To become an Ambassador, students had to be reported doing something good the previous year.
“Not only are bullies getting caught, but we’re using social media to spread good,” Scherzinger said. The idea of uniting and treating others with kindness has caught fire. She said that it’s redefined popular; it’s cool to stand together.
An example of this can be seen in an incident that happened last September. A girl came to school very upset by a cruel message printed on a sticky note and stuck to her back. Scherzinger told the Ambassadors, and they sent out the message for students to meet before school on a certain day. When 1,000 of the 1,500 Sunset Ridge students arrived, the Ambassadors passed out sticky notes that read “Not in Our School.” Hundreds of kids wore the notes on their backs to show bullying would not be tolerated.
The success of the program has also gained attention beyond West Jordan and even Utah. The Disney Channel will be visiting the school in the next month to feature them in one of their “Making Your Mark on the World” segments about kids/teens who are doing something great.
Scherzinger is thrilled with the results of the program, and is happy to share her ideas with others.
“We want this to go to every school,” she said. “Once we can unite our school, we want to unite our town.”