NORMAL — A Twin City organization that promotes teaching social skills to kids is providing a new resource to reduce bullying.
The Peaceful Schools Committee is donating 15 kits, based on the award-winning documentary “Bully,” to McLean County schools and organizations.
“What this movie does in spades is teach empathy,” said Barbara Stuart, founder and co-chairwoman of the committee, initially formed as part of McLean County Community Compact.
Filmmaker Lee Hirsh shows how bullying occurs in daily lives of students and the impact it has on families.
“I know it happens. It happened with my own son,” Stuart said.
The kit includes two versions of the film (one for older students and one for younger kids), teaching cards and a guide book with follow-up activities.
“We’re not saying that schools aren’t doing enough,” said committee co-chairwoman Cory Tello, explaining the kit is another resource for school lessons that includes sensitivity to cultures and mental and physical disabilities.
“This (the issue of bullying) is not just for schools to deal with — it’s for parents, families, the community,” said Tello.
The kits will go to Twin City public libraries, the juvenile court system, Tri-County Special Education Association that serves which serves about 15 rural schools in the area, the four Twin City public junior high schools, two public high schools and Epiphany Catholic School. A “floater” kit will be available as needed, said Tello.
“It’s a really nice gift,” said principal Dan Lamboley of Parkside Junior High School in Normal, who has a team planning activities tied to the kit. “This is a really powerful thing.”
The Peaceful Schools Committee previously provided a free program, called Second Step, to help kindergartners learn empathy, anger management and problem-solving skills. It benefited 95 classrooms in three counties.
The committee relies on donations to help buy the kits. Second Step costs about $300; “Bully” kits are $40 each.
“We have to start early, even in preschool,” said committee member Linda Smith, who works for the Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
The 2012 Illinois Youth Survey reported that 49 percent of sixth graders were called names; 22 percent were threatened, kicked or pushed; and 24 percent were cyber-bullied within the last 12 months.
The survey also showed that by 12th grade, physical bullying dropped to 7 percent and cyber bullying down to 19 percent.
The “Bully” kit addresses cyber-bullying.
“When you don’t put a face to it, it’s easier to bully,” noted principal Lynette Mehall of Kingsley Junior High School in Normal.
Schools in both Twin City districts already use a system that uses similar principles. A program Mehall used last year taught students to “stop, walk and talk” — tell the bully to stop, walk away and talk to an adult.
“It’s not just discipline, it’s instruction,” she said. “It has to be an ongoing effort. It’s not use one and done.”