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Sunday, November 23, 2014

AmPark says ‘no’ to bullying

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
Maya Rajamani/The Riverdale Press
First graders Madison Howard, Ariba Hassan and Matthew Almenas take an anti-bullying pledge at AmPark Neighborhood School on Hillman Avenue.

First graders in Ms. Chandrashaker’s class at AmPark Neighborhood School were asked to imagine they had returned to class after lunch only to discover a note on their desks reading, “You eat dog food.”

They had also discovered a classmate, Deanna, had placed the note on their desks. Their fellow classmates were aware of the incriminating epistle.

“How would that make you feel?” asked Leah Page, an instructor from educational theater program Making Books Sing, which uses role-playing and discussion to educate students on issues like bullying.

“Sad,” one student said. “That is so mean,” said another.

“I need you to crumple up that note and throw it in this recycling box,” said Ms. Page, creating an invisible recycling bin with her outstretched arms.

AmPark Principal Christine Milton said the school holds anti-bullying workshops for its first through fifth grade classes each year. It is a preventive measure, she says, meant to address the ways in which a student could deal with bullying — of his or herself, or of another student — should the situation arise.

A 2013 report published by the National Center for Educational Statistics found nearly one in three children between 12 and 18 reported being bullied during the school year in 2011.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite bullying as a factor that increases the risk of depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety and problems with adjusting to school life.

Ms. Milton said the workshops allow students to bounce ideas off their peers and the educators from Making Books Sing and discuss answers to questions about bullying in and outside the classroom.

“How can we be good citizens? What can we do if we’re being treated badly?” Ms. Milton asked. “They’re all getting the same help and coming up with ideas together.”

During the workshop, Ms. Page and her co-educator Rachel Evans spoke about the different manifestations of bullying, ranging from unkind words or meanness, to pushing and fighting, stressing the importance of empathy in dealing with these situations.

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