Bullying Takes Center Stage at Loring-Flemming
Fourth-grade students at the Little Gloucester Road elementary school tackle the subject of bullying with a musical production.
Bullying has taken center stage in New Jersey's schools.
The state has mandated staff training and procedures to root out bullies.
There are now zero-tolerance, anti-bullying policies in place in every school district.
Name-calling is no longer an offense that draws just a quick reprimand from a teacher or cafeteria aide or bus driver, but a full-blown investigation—even at the youngest grade levels.
Bullying literally took center stage at Loring-Flemming Elementary School on Thursday.
More than 120 of the Little Gloucester Road school's fourth-grade students put on a musical production under the direction of Erica Guillama, with students performing such songs as Aretha Franklin's "Respect," Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
While district-down procedures to punish bullies are key components to curbing bullying, teaching kids to feel good about themselves and respect others' feelings is equally important.
The students donned T-shirts for the concert with the one word on it their classmates had used to describe them that made them feel best.
"I know that they definitely feel really great about themselves at this point," Guillama said Friday of her students following Thursday's concerts.
Concerts were held three times Thursday, with two performances during the school day and one at night.
Now in her ninth year as Loring-Flemming's music teacher, Guillama says the critically acclaimed documentary film Bully and a 48 Hours special on bullying played a role in her decision to adopt the anti-bullying theme for this year's fourth-grade concert.
"In the Bully movie there were kids that were 11 years old that had committed suicide because of bullying," she said. "A lot of people think bullying is a middle-school or a high-school problem, but to hear about 11-year-old kids—you know, I have fifth-graders who are 11—it just broke my heart. Between the two of those productions, it just really made me start thinking about my students."
Guillama received fun and educational support materials from a number of anti-bullying groups, including No H8, she had informed about Loring-Flemming's concert theme.
She also learned this week that Teaching Tolerance—a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center—plans to feature the Loring-Flemming production in its magazine.