Monday, May 23, 2011

Elk Township Girl Scouts take a stand on bullying

Gloucester County Times
Saturday, May 21, 2011
By Carly Q. Romalino

ELK TWP. Ð After a first-hand brush with bullies, an Aura School-based Girl Scout troop won't stand for bullying anymore.

The group of 10 second- and third-grade girls took a stand against bullies Friday with a school-wide presentation on the damage hurtful comments can do, and how to deal with a classmate who takes teasing too far.

"They decided to end bullying at Aura School for every child, forever," said Kay Bessette, leader of Troop 62499.

The anti-bullying presentation coined a new phrase Ð "Stop, talk and walk" Ð that Aura School's kindergarten-through-grade-six children chanted during the assembly.

The Girl Scouts planned and paid for the rally that taught their classmates to stop whatever they're doing when a bully starts to pick on them. Then walk away, and talk to an adult right away.

The same set of rules goes for the bully, the girls said.

Stop making hurtful remarks, walk away from the person they're picking on, and talk to an adult about why they needed to make fun of a classmate.

The Girl Scout troop-initiated bullying event was the brain child of the 10 girls who attend the school. They were picked on for wearing their uniforms to school on days the group met after school.

"They bullied us whenever we got dismissed for Girl Scouts," said third-grader Emma Romagnolia, 7. "They said, ÔYou should be broccoli scouts because cookies make you fat.'"

The girls reported the incidents to Troop Leader Bessette, and decided not to retaliate against the bullies. Instead, they would try to make a difference in the way their classmates treat each other.

The presentation cost the troop more than $500 to put on. The girls raised the funds through Girl Scout Cookie sales, according to Bessette.

"They had a choice. They could have chosen to go horseback riding, or do ceramics," Bessette said. "But they chose this. That's what's so inspiring."

The girls wrote skits that showed how bullies treat other people, and how to handle being bullied. The students in the audience were quizzed at the end of each skit to make sure they understood the "stop, walk and talk" concept. The cookie funds bought prizes Ð "Stop. Talk. Walk." T-shirts Ð and treated the classmates to ice cream.

The troop also invited Elk Township Police Officer Cpl. Ed Gonnelli to speak about consequences of bullying as an adult.

Adults can face jail time and fines if convicted of harassment, simple assault or aggravated assault, he said.

"That's how serious this is today, guys," Gonnelli said.

Girl Scouts Gia Unfreed, 9, and Olivia Marchei, 8, hoped their program really hit home with their classmates and friends.

Gia, an Aura third-grader, hopes the students learned "not to bully, or say ÔI bully, and it's wrong,'" she said.

"And to know not to bully any more," third-grader Olivia added. "They (classmates) probably learned their lesson, too."

Girl Scout Kayla Vandvelt, 8, got to see first-hand how the troop's presentation started to make a difference. She witnessed a boy getting bullied during recess after the anti-bullying sessions, she said.

"It made me feel sad, and I told him he just got bullied," said Kayla, in second grade. "He went inside, walked and talked."

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