The Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District is giving its students new tools to deal with bullying.
At Carollton Elementary in Oak Creek, a ‘Buddy Bench’ has been installed.
It’s meant for anyone feeling lonely to sit on, so someone else can come over and ask them to play.
Fifth-graders Simone Murrell and Addison Martinez like the idea, and opened up to us about their own experiences being bullied.
“I’ve always felt like people have judged me based on what I do and how I look so I would just hang out at recess with no one,” Martinez said.
Murrell says the benches will help let students know people care about them and make them feel they’re a part of the Carollton community.
Specific tools aimed at bullying prevention are a relatively new development.
“I think we found out just saying ‘Be nice’ doesn’t always work for everybody,” said Paul Kenwood, Carollton’s principal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 19 percent of high school students were bullied last year. Just under 15 percent were cyber-bullied.
Oak Creek schools also employ an app called Stop-It for students to anonymously report incidents to school leaders.
Then Kenwood or a counselor can provide strategies on what to do next.
“We have to make sure every kid feels the connection to an adult in the school,” Kenwood said. “No matter what program we set up, if the kids don’t have a relationship with someone in the building, it’s not going to matter.”
Kenwood says parents communicating with their children is key.
If there’s a problem, the earlier it’s reported to the school, the more effectively it can be resolved.