Biddeford Middle School students participate in the 'UNITE Against Bullying Walk' around campus on Friday morning. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Biddeford Middle School students participate in the ‘UNITE Against Bullying Walk’ around campus on Friday morning. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — An individual can come under physical and mental assault by a bully, but their dignity can never be taken away unless they choose to surrender it.

That powerful message was delivered loud and clear to students at Biddeford Middle School on Friday morning as the entire student body marched and participated in the “UNITE Against Bullying Walk” around campus and then listened to a bullying expert and some of their peers talk about the topic during a schoolwide assembly.    

Raine Grant, a Biddeford Middle School seventh-grader, holds a sign informing students about national bullying statistics during the 'UNITE Against Bullying Walk' around campus on Friday morning. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Raine Grant, a Biddeford Middle School seventh-grader, holds a sign informing students about national bullying statistics during the ‘UNITE Against Bullying Walk’ around campus on Friday morning. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

Angela Avery, a BMS guidance counselor, organized the activities for students, which was the third consecutive year that this event was held at the school.    

“Our purpose is to bring the whole school together, including the students and staff, to say we won’t tolerate bullying and unite our school for kids to keep them safe,” Avery said. “I think teaching our kids about respect and kindness is our one of the most important values we can teach them.”    

This group of students stood before their peers during an assembly at Biddeford Middle School on Friday and pledged to help students who are bullied and report students who are bullying others. ED PIERCE?Journal Tribune

This group of students stood before their peers during an assembly at Biddeford Middle School on Friday and pledged to help students who are bullied and report students who are bullying others. ED PIERCE?Journal Tribune

Avery said that bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and students who are bullied or those who bully others may have serious and lasting problems. 

Bullying actions can include threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose or by online harassment. It can can occur during or after school and although most bullying happens in school, a large percentage can also take place on the playground or on the school bus.

Deb Landry of the Crossroads Youth Center in Saco is the local sponsor of UNITEAgainstBullyingME.org and said she first became involved in the issue of bullying when her own son was bullied when he was in the sixth grade.

“Bullying is a sympton of a much larger problem,” Landry said. “If anyone ever says there’s no bullying problems at their school, they’re wrong.”

Landy joined BMS students on the anti-bullying walk, as did Megan McKnight, Miss Pine Tree State for 2018.

McKnight is a student as the University of Southern Maine and will be working with BMS students throughout the school year in raising awareness among students about reporting and confronting bullying.

BMS Principal Scott Descoteaux said nothing is more important to him than the safety of students at the school and he takes bullying as a serious issue that can be detrimental to every aspect of the school.

“At Biddeford Middle School we believe that everyone should feel safe and respected,” Descoteaux said. “We stand together against bullying and we pledge to be kind.”        

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of every five, or 20 percent of students nationwide, report being bullied. Some 35 percent of students reported being bullied during school hours across the nation last year and 15 percent report that they have been  cyberbullied online.

Those same statistics show that 64 percent of students who were bullied in 2016 didn’t report the activity to school adminstrators or teachers, but more than half of all student bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the students being bullied .

After walking across the school campus carrying banners and holding signs supporting anti-bullying efforts at BMS, students listened to Landry at the assembly as she spoke about the seriousness of the issue and how they can take a stand against bullies. 

Avery also introduced a group of BMS students who pledged to report bullies to teachers and help those who might be bullied. 

“We hope to achieve more awareness of the topic among students and want to encourage students to speak up and empower them to report bullying,” Avery said.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at  [email protected]     

   


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