Students, teachers and guest speakers from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) participated in a special anti-bullying training session called "No Place for Hate" at Coral Reef Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 20.
Conducted in the school's library from 8:30 to 11:45 a.m., the program focused on teaching the 30 participating students how to be an ally to those who are the targets of name-calling and bullying by supporting the victimized students, by not participating in the bullying actively or passively by laughing, staring or cheering, and by telling aggressors to stop.
The students also were urged to tell a trusted adult about any bullying incidents to get needed help, and to get to know people instead of judging them.
School counselor Susan C. Sirota helped organize the event with the help of Lily Medina, Education Project director of the ADL; Lee Milstein and Iris Frohman, ADL facilitators, and school principal Christina Guerra.
“Here at Coral Reef and all Dade- County Public Schools, especially the elementary schools, we work very hard on bullying prevention strategies throughout the year,” Sirota said. “However, every workshop, every program, including our DARE officers, our ‘Officer Friendly,’ Youth Crime Watch, including this one from the ADL, help to reinforce our strategies with the children and give them more opportunities to express themselves and come up with ideas that will work for them as children, not just us as adults giving them what we think will work.”
Sirota said that the hands-on workshop will hopefully help students come up with ideas they can bring back to friends that they can then incorporate in their DARE programs and Officer Friendly programs.
“We also want to prepare them for social media cyber bullying and middle school as well,” Sirota said.
The goal is to become a “No Place for Hate School” and for Palmetto Bay to become a “Community of Respect.”
Medina explained the importance of the program.
“The ‘No Place for Hate’ initiative is all over Miami-Dade and Broward, actually all over Florida, but right now in Miami- Dade we have a lot of schools that are trying to become designated as ‘No Place for Hate,’” Medina said.
“What that means is having each school receive one of these programs, either a bullying prevention or diversity awareness program, and then implementing three school-wide activities that promote the message, bringing the school community together to address name-calling and bullying in a positive way. We want to give the students skills and strategies to help them speak up and help each other so they’re not bystanders, they’re allies. It can change a whole school community.”
Several of the students — all 10 years old and in the fifth grade — wanted to express what the program meant to them.
“It means that I’m not afraid to speak up to bullies and I can try my best not to be a bully and try to help other people that are bullied,” Jane Garcia said. “I really enjoyed the session and want to do it again. I want kids to know, if they get bullied, don’t be afraid; just speak up for themselves and tell an adult.”
Marisa Tellam liked the training session as well.
“It was very informative and it taught me a lot about bullying,” she said.
Rebecca Regalado agreed.
“It was fun and I liked it,” she said. “It taught us a lot.”
Juliana Fuprelo also took the message to heart.
“Not only does it say that we should stand up for what we think, but we should stand up for others, too,” she added.
Officer Peter Judge, also known as “Officer Friendly” in the school programs in Palmetto Bay, thinks the program can have a great ripple effect throughout the community.
“We’ve been doing the anti-bullying work for the last six years in the ‘Officer Friendly’ program,” Judge said. “We tell kids they have the power to stop bullying. What they learn here they can put forward in middle school and high school. So a lot of the kids that we deal with in the three elementary schools here in Palmetto Bay are going to be our goodwill ambassadors when they go off to other schools.”
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