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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

LCS middle schoolers renew stand against bullying

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Members of the Le Mars Community School Stand for the Silent (SFTS) Chapter marched in the LCS Homecoming Parade in September. Last week student members of the SFTS leadership team and the group's adult sponsors encouraged sixth graders to stand up against bullying by joining the school's SFTS chapter.
One hundred sixth graders pledged to stand against bullying at Le Mars Community Middle School last week.

Student members and adult sponsors of the LCS Stand For The Silent (SFTS) Chapter invited sixth graders to help stop bullying in their school and community.

During an assembly Friday, LCMS Principal Steve Shanks told the sixth graders about Kirk Smalley's visit to the school last year to deliver an anti-bullying message.

Le Mars Community Middle School Principal Steve Shanks, left, and members of the Stand For The Silent student leadership team, Elizabeth Ihrke, Gretchen Adams and Cole Berkenpas lead sixth graders in reciting the "I am somebody" anti-bullying pledge during an assembly last week.
Smalley, of Oklahoma, talked about his son, Ty, who took his own life after being bullied, and asked Le Mars students to start their own SFTS chapter.

Shanks also showed the sixth graders a video of students sharing the "I am somebody" message from the SFTS website.

Developed by Kirk Smalley, the message is intended to make everyone realize that "I am somebody" and to have tolerance for other people.

Shanks shared with the sixth graders last week his belief that students must be involved in eliminating bullying in the school.

"We found out as a school that we can have all kinds of rules about bullying, but it's a lot more powerful if you guys do it," he said.

Melissa Hill, school counselor and volunteer sponsor of the middle school SFTS Chapter, emphasized to the sixth graders that they can put a stop to bullying.

"I think most of the power comes from the kids," she said. "I think we have a great group of kids who can really make changes in the school and the Le Mars community."

It wasn't only the adult sponsors who spoke to sixth graders, last week but also members of the SFTS student leadership team.

Each shared a message including outlining the chapter's activities last year, why it's important to stand against bullying and how students can get involved.

Prior to giving her message, eighth grader Lauren Tabbert said eliminating bullying is important.

"It's a good cause to be part of and support kids around school," Tabbert said.

She added that bullying, including name calling and rude comments, happens at the middle school, something she hopes the sixth graders will stand against.

"We want the kids to come and support us because there is still bullying," Tabbert said. "It's a terrible thing to be part of."

Seventh grader Gretchen Adams said she returned to the SFTS leadership team this school year to help put a stop to bullying.

"I wanted to do something about it but never really had the chance," Adams said.

Already this year, members of the SFTS chapter are bringing anti-bullying awareness to the school and community.

"We've done the homecoming parade this year," said eighth grader Cole Berkenpas.

About 15 SFTS members carrying posters walked alongside a teal-colored car, the color representing SFTS nationwide, driven in the parade by Tabbert's dad.

This month middle school SFTS members are also bringing their anti-bullying message to students every day during October -- National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

"We've done the morning announcements every day," Adams said.

Ryan Zittritsch, seventh grade science teacher and volunteer SFTS sponsor, explained that each day during morning announcements students have read an anti-bullying message.

"That's something we're actually going to try to get our group to continue at least once or twice a week and throughout the year so it's a reminder," Zittritsch said.

SFTS student leadership members also spoke to sixth graders about activities the group did last year.

Some of those included giving out smiley face buttons at the middle school carnival, making and wearing SFTS T-shirts, designing posters that were put around the school and making a video.

"Myself, Mrs. Hill and Mr. Shanks took pictures of kids holding posters, kids doing positive things and we made a video," Zittritsch said. "We played that at the assembly on the last day of school."

Following last week's assembly with the sixth graders, the next step for the SFTS middle school chapter is to ask sixth, seventh and eighth graders to join the group's leadership team.

Last year that team included 32 members, however, the chapter as a whole had more than 200 members.

The student leadership team discusses what activities the SFTS chapter will do throughout the school year.

To be a member of the SFTS leadership team or the large group, each student must read and sign an anti-bullying pledge focusing on the "I am somebody" message.

The about 100 sixth graders who attended last Friday's assembly read the pledge aloud.

Shanks told the students that reading the pledge means they have to follow it.

"You're now defenders of what is good and right in this school," he said.

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