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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hillcrest Junior High School has kicked off an anti-bullying campaign and the school hallways are decorated with anti-bullying posters that students have made. Bullying, though, is not found only in the classroom, but also the office.
Hillcrest Junior High implements anti-bullying initiative
Campaign » Students compete in poster contest, 200 view documentary.
First Published Apr 04 2013 03:04 pm • Last Updated Apr 04 2013 03:04 pm

Hillcrest Junior High is stepping up its anti-bullying efforts at the school. As part of the campaign, students competed in a poster contest and viewed the film "Bully."

Vice principal Andrew "Buck" Corser said the school saw a concern among a small group of students, which was enough to convince the administration that something needed to be done to educate students about the issue.

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"The reason we chose to be so diligent with addressing bullying at our school is based on how devastating it can be to the individual," Corser said.

Around December of last year, Corser said there were concerns from students who were getting picked on repeatedly, especially through verbal aggression.

"I don’t feel it is a widespread problem at our school, however, this type of program allows us to focus on character education and specifically on evoking feelings of empathy, respect and kindness amongst our students," Corser said.

He called up some businesses including Best Buy, Deseret First Credit Union and Nickel Mania and asked them to sponsor a poster contest that promotes a safe and bully-free school. The school received more than $500 in cash and prizes.

"It was to get ideas to see how students feel about what’s going on in the school," Corser said. "It was very successful."

The school picked one winner from each grade and one winner overall. Sixty students participated, and their posters now adorn the walls of the school.

Corser said it’s important that the activities they do allow the students to give feedback.

"For the poster contest, we did group discussions by gender and grade," he said. "It emphasized the fact that the kids are the most powerful ones with our help and structure."

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Corser has gotten some positive feedback from students.

"At lunch time, there was a girl who people would play around with her and take her food," he said. "After we went through and did the bullying posters, that stopped."

Another result of this anti-bullying initiative is that it has given a means for students to come forward and discuss their concerns.

"This allows us to look at how we are as teachers to the students, top down, everybody has to be approachable," Corser said. "Kids are feeling better about communicating with us."

What Corser wants students to take away also is a sense of unity among the school, especially because the students are at a tough age when they have to face issues of just growing up. To him, bully is a "disheartening" problem that should not happen at any level to anyone.

"We want to build confidence with our students, character and self-worth," Corser said.

Taking the model from other schools, Hillcrest Junior put together a three-year plan to address bullying. Corser said it’s still in the works, but the school plans to have themes such as Tolerance Tuesday to reinforce what they’ve started.

"We need to educate them … follow up and be passionate about it and continue to work one on one in small groups with these kids," Corser said.

In addition to the poster contest, the school contacted the Utah Film Center, which agreed to present a screening of the independent film "Bully" to Hillcrest Junior’s seventh-graders.

"The Utah Film Society, they were very good to us," Corser said. "They helped get us down there, and they showed the movie to us, so that was a huge help."

"Bully" came out in 2011 and documented the stories of students who are or were victims of bullying.

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