With an awe-struck smile on his face, Justin Williams stared up at the 6-foot-6-inch World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Titus O’Neil.
O’Neil wrapped an arm around the sixth-grader’s shoulders and asked him to tell his peers the two best ways to stop bullying.
“Tell a trustworthy adult, like a principal or a teacher,” Justin said. “And, tell the bully to stop and take the person [being bullied] away from the situation.”
O’Neil and three other WWE superstars spoke about bullying during WWE’s “Be a STAR” anti-bullying campaign at MacArthur Middle School on Dec. 13 during their visit to Fort Meade.
The initiative encourages “young people to treat each other with respect through education and grass roots initiatives,” according to the WWE community website.
During the hourlong event, WWE wrestlers Alicia Fox, Bayley and Sin Cara took turns telling personal stories about being bullied.
“I was bullied [as a kid] because I loved WWE,” Bayley said. “Now, I’m here with WWE.”
WWE personality Alicia Fox took the microphone to talk about the different types of bullying.
“There’s verbal and physical bullying,” Fox said. “But the No. 1 form of bullying is cyberbullying.”
Fox asked the students to raise their hand if they had ever received a mean message. As hands shot up, she fired off another question.
“Has anyone ever sent a negative message?” she asked.
Hands, fewer than before, were grudgingly raised in the air.
“Social media is a tool,” Fox said.
With help from students, she listed a couple of ways to respond to cyberbullying.
“Tell a parent, block the message and don’t respond, and keep all passwords safe,” Fox said.
Sin Cara, who wears a Lucha Libre mask, asked students to define what a bystander is and encouraged them to intervene when witnessing bullying.
To drive home the message of respect and tolerance, O’Neil led the students in a call and response.
“Don’t be a bully,” he shouted.
“Be a star!” the students responded gleefully.
O’Neil presented a certificate to Assistant Principal Laura Dudeck for the school’s “continued commitment to bullying prevention.”
“Here at MacArthur we take bullying seriously,” Dudeck said during the rally. “We have a no-tolerance policy [on bullying] and it starts with you guys.”
Students selected by their teachers for being leaders were recognized during the rally with plaques of their own. Shyheim Lattimore, Kyle Chidester, Denekio Crowdy, Georgia Pickard and Karen Yang were called one by one to the stage to receive their plaques and take a picture with the wrestlers.
Seventh-grade school counselor Reba Miller handles bullying cases at the middle school. She agrees that the primary form of bullying is cyberbullying.
“It was wonderful to have WWE here to reinforce what we say about cyberbullying,” she said. “The rally was very helpful.”
Tackling Bullying At School
This year, Miller wanted to change the conversation around bullying.
“As school counselors, bullying is a part of our curriculum,” Miller said. “However, when we started planning for this coming school year, I wanted to change the focus from bullying to kindness. Thus the ‘Acts of Kindness, Inspire Kindness’ program began.”
The program is divided into three committees: the community committee, faculty committee and student committee. Each group focuses on different ways to promote, show and encourage acts of kindness.
“The goal of [this initiative] is to decrease bullying at MacArthur Middle School through educating and informing the community,” Miller said. “We want to show our students what bullying looks like, how to report it and, eventually, how to eliminate it.”
From students to teachers to the custodial staff, members of each group are participating in a friendly Acts of Kindness Competition to see who can tally the most kind acts during the school year.
The schoolwide initiative encourages every individual at the school to record someone else being kind. Each month a different group in the school is in charge of recognizing the kind acts of others.
Anyone observing a member of the MacArthur community performing a kind act can fill out and submit a kindness-act tally sheet to Miller, who maintains all of the documented acts of kindness.
At the end of the month, the winner who has performed the most kind acts will be announced.
“It can be something as simple as a student dropping books and another kid picking them up,” Miller said.
To commemorate a year of kind acts, MacArthur will hold a kindness celebration in June.