In every generation, throughout human history, there have been bullies. Sometimes they are the more popular kids in school, the more powerful people at the office, or the more noticeable characters that live on your block. Some (many) world leaders can be seen as bullies, pushing others around to get their way. In movies, they frequently play the role of the bad guy… characters like Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Cinderella’s stepmother all made it their personal mission to bring down the good guy.
We can all remember who the bullies were back in grade school. We remember them so strongly because children have worldviews that are still very small and undeveloped. Which is why, when one kid is bullied by another, it may feel as if their world is ending. Bullying is a huge issue for many children and youth, yet there are few people who are willing to be the hero and stand up against those who drag others down.
Every community needs such heroes. Not really BIG heroes, like firemen or police officers, but everyday heroes…people who are willing to step up and face the bad guy. Where are these heroes when we actually need them?
Given how prominent bullying can be in our community, we hope that more everyday heroes are willing to step in and help. Research has shown that, during a bullying incident, more than 50% of the time the victim’s peers simply watched the bullying. Sometimes they may even join in the bullying! This is a startling truth – there really is nowhere to hide from bullying and there appears to be little help for the victims. However, when peers did intervene on the victim’s behalf, the bullying usually ended within 10 seconds… so maybe there is hope after all.
Luckily there are communities that do have true heroes who are fighting against the evils of bullying and, of course, Brampton is no exception. There appears to be great hope for the future, as some schools now offer anti-bullying teaching and curricula. These are proving to be extremely effective and are making a noticeable difference. Agnes Taylor Public School is a fantastic example of a school where the anti-bully movement has really hit home with the kids. Their huge anti-bullying program runs year-round, including wearing pink anti-bully T-shirts every Tuesday. The entire staff works as a team to instill proper values and judgment skills in the kids in classes and throughout the school day. The results are a more accepting, open, friendly school environment. All in all, the program has been a smashing success.
The principal of Agnes Taylor, David Yaciuk, has been instrumental in setting up the anti-bullying program. He welcomed Enrich Magazine, along with Brampton’s own Batman, on Tuesday February 24th (the day before Canadian Pink Shirt Day) to pass on a message to the youngest grades, kindergarten to grade two. He spoke about including others, being a friend, and how to stand up against bullies. When Batman admitted that he too was bullied in school, the kids erupted into chatter and exclamations of surprise. “Many years ago, when I wasn’t as tall as I am now, I actually had a bully in school. I do not remember his name now. He wanted something from me. At that time, I had to talk to my dad, who was a lot bigger than me and had a scarier voice than I do. He actually went to the school on my behalf, and talked to the teacher and principal. They talked to the bully and, afterward, we spoke and shook hands and were friends,” Batman said. His message was to never be afraid to speak up about any bullying that you hear or see, and that it’s about saying NO to bullies while remaining respectful to everyone.
For the kids to hear that one of their familiar heroes, whom they all know and love, has a very human past was powerfully moving. I am quite certain that every kid in that audience who has ever been bullied felt a bit stronger that day!
A few more questions were asked (such as “Do you own a Batmobile?”), but the main message was clear – say NO to bullies! The message hit home for the kids. They sat in awe as he stood before them and gave them a truly inspiring message – you can be a hero! Just stand up for yourself and your peers, respect everyone, and accept people for who they are.
After his talk, Batman left with a swish of his long dark cape. “That was powerful,” the principal said upon returning to his office. “That was something the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
His goal is for the kids to see their school not only as a place to learn, but also as a centre of the community. “The whole point of education is not just for kids to know how to read and write, but for kids to be able to leave our school as proper citizens, understanding right and wrong, understanding how to treat each other, understanding how to follow rules, understanding how to be responsible and accountable. We don’t just talk about anti-bullying. We don’t just talk about multiculturalism. We don’t just talk about conflict resolution or responsibility. We talk about citizenship, because it kind of encapsulates all of it. It’s about making them productive members of society.” He pointed out that the classroom is the first sense of community outside of their family units, so setting good examples right from the start while they are in school is key.
The city is in turmoil, and bullies still run through our streets. Luckily, there are people like Batman who, while they may not be simple everyday heroes, are part of a movement towards less bullying. The anti-bully movement at Agnes Taylor is one small part of something bigger. There has been a noticeable, positive difference in the students’ behaviour since its implementation, proving that programs like this work for everyone’s benefit. “That is, I think, what we are trying to teach the children here – that together they’re stronger,” comments principal Yaciuk.
There is truly strength in numbers, and there will always be more good guys than bad guys in the world. Just because you are an ordinary citizen, it does not mean that you can’t step in and save the day if you see someone being bullied!
By Veronika White