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October 1, 2019

Bully Busters Program Tackles Bullying at Local Schools

By Laura Cross, Hillsborough County Schools

How schools and students in Hillsborough County tackle bully prevention.

“Bullying” is a word we never want to hear come out of our child’s mouth. We don’t want to RAISE a bully and we certainly don’t want our child to BE bullied.

That’s why, in Hillsborough County Public Schools, we embrace October as National Bullying Prevention Month. Many of our schools hold contests and events to stand united against bullying—and some schools take it a step further.

Lewis Elementary in Temple Terrace has a group dedicated to bully prevention. It’s called Bully Busters and it was started by a young girl named Riley. When Riley was in third grade, she went to the school counselor about a bully.

Amanda Leonard was that counselor. “Riley came to me and asked for my help talking to a bully,” Leonard said. “The next day, we all met during lunch and resolved the problem.”

From that one incident, Bully Busters was born!

The group meets once a month before school. They play games and perform skits to try to recognize the difference between bullying and teasing. There is a big difference, Leonard says.

Bullying happens repeatedly, it gets progressively worse, and typically the bully seeks out a particular student. Teasing is usually more good-natured and has some back-and-forth to it.

During October, the Bully Busters take over the school. They hang posters and film videos for the morning show and demonstrate their anti-bullying stance by picking one day where everyone in the school is encouraged to wear blue.

For Leonard, it’s important the entire school is educated about bullying, but that education is done in different ways. “For younger students—kindergarteners and first graders—they’re still navigating friendships and they’re still learning people are different from them. We teach them not to stare, or say something insensitive. In later years, they’re becoming pre-teens. They have hormones and there are often a lot of misunderstandings. We try to teach them how to handle those misunderstandings without giving off the wrong perception.”

But unfortunately, sometimes bullying DOES happen. There are several ways for students and parents to report acts of bullying in our district:

  • Verbally report the bullying to an adult at the school.
  • Fill out a Bullying Reporting Form, which is available at every school.
  • Report the bullying via email or phone call to a school administrator, area superintendent or district office.
  • Report it online at our district’s website; go to hillsboroughschools.org and type “bullying prevention” in the search box. All reports go directly to the principal or assistant principal of the respective school to investigate and resolve.

If a child has a concern about bullying or teasing, they should be encouraged to report it or talk to a trusted adult.

As for Riley, she’s moved on to Greco Middle School this year—but she’s not leaving her Bully Busting behind. Riley has already had a meeting with her new principal to discuss starting a similar program to make sure her new school continues to be a welcoming place for everyone.

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