By David Carroll

EAST RIDGE, TN (WRCB)- One of the nation's top anti-bullying speakers visited East Ridge Elementary on Friday with a clear message: "STAMP out bullying!"

Jay Banks of Spring Hill, Tennessee made energetic, humorous presentations to more than 800 students and teachers.  A strong believer in "empowering victims and bystanders," Banks bounded from one side of the school's shiny new gymnasium to the other, holding the attention of kids in grades K-5.

He said STAMP is an acronym for "Stay away from bullies, Tell someone if you're bullied, Avoid bad situations, Make friends so you're never alone in your school or neighborhood, and Project confidence to discourage potential bullies from approaching you."

Banks' appearance was made possible by a mini-grant from the Junior League of Chattanooga, designed to aid the school's anti-bullying efforts.  STARS has partnered with the school to introduce the Olweus Bullying Prevention program, which Banks calls "the very best in the nation." East Ridge Elementary is the 12th Hamilton County school to use the program.

Banks says, "When a school really commits to this, and has a comprehensive school-wide program with full participation of administration and staff, bullying will be reduced tremendously."

Hamilton County School Board member David Testerman, a former elementary principal who represents District 8, was impressed with Banks' performance and his message. "He gets their attention, and keeps it, because he speaks directly to the students," Testerman said.  "It's never too early to educate our children about this.  They can use these lessons their whole life.  Bullying doesn't start and end in school.  It happens to grown-ups, even in the workplace.  This is knowledge they need."

Banks also challenged teachers "to listen, really listen to your students, and know that they're watching you, depending on you."  He said teachers often tell him they learn as much as the students during his programs.  By the end of his second hour-long assembly on Friday, the East Ridge students had memorized his five major points of "STAMP," chanting them aloud, while smiling from ear to ear.

School Counselor Jennifer Rimback says she's excited about the programs being introduced to her school, and sent the following letter to parents:

"Our school cares about the safety and well-being of our students. We want to make sure our school is a good place for students to learn. To do this we are going to be using a program called the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is one of the best-known bullying prevention programs. OBPP has been proven to prevent or reduce bullying. The goals of OBPP are to reduce bullying problems and prevent new bullying problems from happening. The program also works to make relationships better among students. The program is for all students, not just those who are being bullied or who are bullying others. 

Parents and guardians play a key role in this program. Your child will be asked to tell an adult at school and at home if he or she is bullied or sees bullying happening at school. It will be very important that you take any bullying seriously and tell our school staff. Our school staff members are being trained to deal with bullying situations when we are told about them.

We are fortunate to have Jay Banks, a nationally recognized educator/entertainer come present his program "STAMP Out Bullying!" for our students. You may view his website at www.jaybanks.com. At the assembly, your student will be introduced to our school wide anti-bullying rules:

 

  1. We will not bully others.
  2. We will try to help students who are being bullied.
  3. We will try to include students who are left out.
  4. If we know that a student is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.

 

An integral part of this program centers on classroom meetings. Once a week, your child's class will gather to discuss bullying and other important issues with the classroom teacher. We hope this opportunity will strengthen students' relationships with each other and strengthen our school community.

 

Bullying should not be seen as "kids being kids" or something that students just need to deal with. Having a safe school experience is something that all students should be able to enjoy."

Principal Sharon Watts praised Mrs. Rimback's efforts in helping obtain and implement the program.  "We're a large school, having combined two former schools this year, with a large, diverse population.  We haven't had any real problems, but it's never too early to begin letting these children know that we care about them, and to make sure they know we listen, and we care."