GREENFIELD — More than 700 students will dedicate an entire day next week to a school-wide anti-bullying event organized by a group of teens who say they want to see change in their school.
Tuesday, the Greenfield Central Junior High School student body will spend the day learning ways to identify bullying, stand up to those who do target others and report bad behavior to the right people.
The event culminates that night with a community forum for parents led by Doug Wilhelm, author of “The Revealers,” a popular novel about bullying at a middle school not unlike those in Hancock County.
Language/arts teacher Lisa Potter selected the book for a class of gifted and talented students to study last summer. The middle school setting of the story was perfect for students their age, she said.
“That’s a big shift going from intermediate to junior high, and research shows (that’s) where bullying peaks,” she said.
Potter, who oversees the school’s anti-bullying club, “Just Stop it,” invited her students to brainstorm ways to spread the book’s message.
When they suggested bringing the author in for a special presentation, Potter balked.
“I’m thinking dollar signs in my head,” she said.
Then a donor stepped forward and offered to cover the author’s fee and travel expenses.
Since then, the students have ramped up their efforts to make the event a success.
Eighth-grader Jenna Parsons said she hopes the community forum will serve to open a dialogue between parents and their children and help parents learn how to ask the right questions.
“Kids don’t always tell their parents if they’re bullied and stuff,” she said. “They don’t want parents to step in because it’s ‘not cool’ or it’ll just get worse.”
Part of the problem, said 13-year-old Schuyler Jensen, is bullying today often happens outside the purview of teachers who would step in and help.
“People are really demeaning online,” he said. “You don’t exactly see people getting shoved in lockers anymore.”
Whitney Bishop, 13, is excited to meet the author who got the conversation started.
Wilhelm is holding a special break-out session with club members to work on creative writing.
Whitney said “The Revealers,” resonated with the class.
“I think it has a really good meaning,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
Potter said she’s looking forward to seeing how students react to the altered school day, which will consist of rotations among classrooms hosting various activities.
Kids will participate in role-playing activities, watch a documentary and be asked to sign an anti-bullying pledge.
The message, Potter said, will be powerful.
“I can’t imagine that kids won’t walk away feeling differently,” she said.