Students from Mabel Elementary School marched through downtown Boone and the ASU campus Monday morning to send an anti-bullying message to the entire community.
It was the third annual “Stomp Out Bullying March” by students at Mabel, a K-8 school serving about 170 students in western Watauga County. Students in second through sixth grades participated, carrying hand-lettered signs with a variety of anti-bullying statements.
The event was organized by Mabel School Counselor Christy Welch in connection with Blue Shirt Day, a World Day of Bullying Prevention sponsored by the national Stomp Out Bullying organization. Blue Shirt Day is timed to help kick off the recognition of October as National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
How did students respond to taking part in the event? Welch asked students for their one-word descriptions and received responses such as “hopeful,” “inspired,” “uplifting,” “awesome,” “proud,” and “courageous.”
Students were not the only ones that appreciated the march. Waves and smiles from drivers and pedestrians showed students their message was well received and teachers were pleased with their students’ participation.
“I’m really proud of our students and I’m proud that we are doing this,” remarked Bronwyn Merritt, a third grade teacher at Mabel. Merritt added that while the march is a one-time event, bullying prevention is given regular attention at Mabel. Discussions about bullying are integrated into all classes at various times during the year and bullying prevention is an important component of the school’s approach to behavior management.
Mabel’s emphasis on bullying prevention also reflects the district-wide attention given to the issue. While there is some flexibility at the school level in exactly how and when to focus on bullying prevention, there are Board of Education policies that address bullying and related issues and these policies apply in every school in the system.
Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott has stressed the value of creating a positive school climate in the Watauga County Schools and he emphasized the importance of welcoming all students and preventing bullying in the most recent issue of the district newsletter. Elliott stated in the newsletter that “every child needs to be valued and every student deserves the opportunity to realize his or her full potential. This mindset must be at the core of everything we do in our schools.”
“In their march against bullying, Mabel students and teachers also marched for the affirming and inclusive mindset that helps support educational excellence,” Elliott commented Monday. “Our vision for this district is that we will be the best place in NC to learn and work. Nothing is more important to achieving that vision than for all of us to work together on valuing everyone and educating the whole child.”
Photos: Watauga County School System