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Be Cool – Not Cruel program takes aim at bullying

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A recent Be Cool – Not Cruel assembly for Wellwood Middle School sixth grade students showcased live student performances and videos aimed at stopping bullying. 

The Be Cool – Not Cruel program is one component of a district-wide initiative that addresses anti-bullying. The goal of the program is to build a safe school environment and foster a sense of community that prevents bullying behavior. It reinforces steps that F-M has already taken to ensure that all students are attending school in a setting that is free from bullying, harassment and intimidation in compliance with the state's Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), which takes effect July 1.

The Be Cool – Not Cruel program pairs 22 middle school children with 21 F-M High School students. The older students are members of the High School Peer Helper program, and the younger students are peer leaders who were selected by middle school guidance counselors for their leadership abilities.

During the March 29 Wellwood assembly, seventh and eighth grade students acted out skits the high school students wrote that were drawn from real life experiences.

During the skits, student actors would freeze at various points so peer leaders could talk with the sixth grade students about what they had just seen.

“The stories and skits we use are from real issues that happen in middle school – from being left out at the lunch table to rumor spreading,” said Kristen Rubacka, a Wellwood guidance counselor. “The older students feel good about being part of the solution, and by using real life situations, believe that they can have an impact on how the younger students are treating each other.”

Students also watched videos which were carefully selected for their positive anti-bullying messages. When the videos concluded, student leaders took small groups of sixth graders into breakout sessions for a more thorough discussion of the video topics.

The small student groups also created posters about being an ally that will be hung around the school.

“It is my hope that the students will think about how their words and actions affect their peers,” said Ms. Rubacka. “I want to empower them to be an ally if they witness bullying behavior and feel confident stepping up to support a classmate.”

The program benefits the younger and older students in different ways.

“The high school students gain leadership abilities, and they become more invested in promoting anti-bullying behaviors in their daily actions,” said F-M High School Social Worker Sheila Coughlin.

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