Bringing Awareness to Violence in the Community
Watchung Hills sending district struggles to fight bullying in one of its elementary schools
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At Watchung Hills, teachers and students are well aware of the consequences of bullying others. The awareness has made the school a zero tolerance zone for bullying and has made the school a more friendly and welcoming environment. The policies may be effective in the high school, but the message is unfortunately not as strong in the sending districts’ elementary schools.
At Millington School, an elementary school nestled in Long Hill, New Jersey, violence broke out just last week. Children that were once victims of bullying came together and created a “community” with the purpose of standing by each other and acting as a town. They deemed themselves “citizens” of this bully free area, a safe haven they called Happy Village. Their charisma and open hearts to acceptance of everyone reached the teachers and families at home. They even had a town motto- “Nice is Right.”
What was once a made up town that was only acted out at recess quickly turned into a legitimate community inside the school system. Teachers and children created an election where the students voted for a mayor for the village. One boy campaigning for the position even passed out flyers that encouraged freedom of expression and the right to a democracy for every type of citizen. He vowed to give hugs instead of build walls, to bring together people instead of make war, to create compassion and kindness instead of hate and jealousy, and to even encourage his peers to get good grades.
Yet some children became jealous and destroyed the posters that preached about peace. The abusers were a group of fifth graders that ripped the posters that encouraged love within the community. They chanted “Evil Village” as they even attacked the children by punching and kicking them. Yet, when they were asked about their acts of violence they did not appear remorseful. For example, one boy admitted happily, “I was honest so I didn’t get in trouble.” Another said, “I only lost recess.”
Unfortunately though, consequences appear to be ineffective. The bullies did not seem to not understand that they bruised other children’s bodies and broke their spirits.
With the goal of a creating a loving and happy environment, many parents in the Long Hill community are now encouraging reforming the school’s policies to educate the bullies on how their actions affect others. Unfortunately though, the issue they are facing is incredibly common.
In 2014, 58% of public schools reported physical violence incidents. These instances affect thousands of students, teachers, parents, and communities and the problem is perhaps a result of insufficient punishments, a lack of education on bullying, and/or parents condoning violence.
Schools are not just about education, they are also about learning to love and to accept diversity. Still though, children attending Millington School claim to be scared to go. They feel unsafe. Parents of the victims want to bring awareness to the issues and educate the community and the society they live in on the injustices that surround them on a day to day basis. So, as citizens within a community we should stand up for the children who lost their voice, and lost their freedom of expression.