IVC students spread anti-bullying message

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin
Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille uses some Mossville students for his demonstration while speaking to them about bullying.

The Everyday Leadership Class takes seriously the problem of bullying in school.

The Illinois Valley Central High School students tackled the issue by speaking to the elementary and junior high students in IVC District 321.

“We wanted to let the younger kids know we won’t tolerate bullying when they get here,” IVC student Kyle Fouts said about the students’ eventual high school experience.

That means, he said, they need to stop any bullying where they are now.

Bullying is widely discussed as one of the most pressing issues in schools today.

All of the high school students in the class, minus one absent student, indicated that they either had been bullied or had seen bullying.

IVC student Joe Gleason explained that it is more than just what adults may think of as the bully who physically intimidates someone or calls them names.

Once students get to high school, bullying is mostly online through social media. Those with few friends usually have it worse.

As IVC student Darrian Owens explained, technology opens the door for more problems as almost all older children have cellphones.

“It creates more chances to bully,” Owens said.

To combat the problem, the high school students planned a project around the International Day of Peace, commonly known as Peace Day, which was Sept. 21.

They broke into groups to talk to each of the three schools about bullying and what the younger students could do about it.

At South School, the students led an assembly Sept. 13. The high school classmates performed a skit for the South students. Additionally, they helped the younger students make pinwheels which were hung on the windows so the students could be reminded of what they stand for, IVC student Kacie Thurman said. The Everyday Leadership Class has been making the pinwheels and focusing on bullying for the last four years. In some of the previous years, the pinwheels were planted outside.

At Chillicothe Elementary Center, the high schoolers paired up and went from class to class spreading the anti-bullying message and what Peace Day is, IVC student Cameron McChesney said.

At Mossville School, two assemblies were held Sept. 19: one for the younger students through fourth grade and an older assembly for fifth through eighth grade, IVC student Damon Clay said.

Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille was the featured speaker for those assemblies.

Mettille explained that he tailored each of his talks to the age groups. For the younger students, bullying can be a form of peer pressure. Students should contact their teacher or adult they trust to help them.

Older students predominantly face cyber bullying, or what Mettille calls emotional bullying, through Facebook and texting.

Whether it involves younger or older students, Mettille said usually the bully or bullies are far outnumbered by the students watching the bullying occur. All it takes is for one or more of them to stand up to the bully for it to stop, he said.

Students become bullies for a variety of reasons: low self esteem, a call for attention, being bullied themselves, problems at home, etc., Mettille said.

He said for the older students, it comes down to an important realization.

“You know right from wrong. It’s a matter of owning it. It’s a matter of taking a stance in life,” Mettille said.

The high school students said they think students listened to the message they spread and received positive feedback.

Teacher Matt Chapman said the sixth graders at Mossville ranked the assembly, and it did not receive any lower than a four on a five-point scale.

IVC student Kaylie McCullough received heartwarming feedback as a little girl at South School approached her, saying, “Thank you for talking to us because I’ve been bullied a lot.” Her feedback did not end with words, however, when she hugged McCullough.

IVC student Jacob Willford said he has seen and experienced bullying to different degrees depending on the schools he attended. He attended Mossville School through fifth grade and did not see any bullying. He then moved to Peoria and said he was being bullied all day. He later returned to CEC and saw a “little bit” of bullying.

With students and schools all facing different degrees of bullying, Fouts said students heard from teachers that South School students were behaving better. Some teachers had overheard students tell each other, “We shouldn’t do this. This is wrong,” Fouts repeated. “It’s definitely making an impact in the lower grades,” he added.

Chapman pointed out that the students led the project, contacting the appropriate authorities to work out details for their presentations. The students also are considering ways to follow up with the various grade levels.

On the Pinwheels for Peace webpage, Chillicothe is recognized as a community that embraces peace and each school is represented, Chapman said.

Owens explained that the Pinwheels for Peace began in Coconut Creek, Fla., by two art teachers to raise awareness. The art students then talked to their families with the end result now of an estimated four billion pinwheels created.

One of the benefits of the project did not have anything to do with bullying.

“We’ve grown closer together,” IVC student Mattie Brisbin said about her Everyday Leadership classmates. “We’ve worked for weeks on this project. I feel like we’re a family now.”

With a successful project under their belt, the class began work on the next project, organizing a blood drive that was Oct. 2 at the high school. The students work on one project a month plus their own individual projects.