In response to these numbers, the teen advisory board at the Moab Teen Center has started an anti-bullying and awareness club for students in grades six through eight, Teen Center Director Amy Stocks said.
The club, named Stand Tall in homage to a song by the group Dirty Heads, is designed to be a casual group where students can go and talk about their experiences. Stocks said that the group of seven high school students will serve as a sort of mentoring option for the younger students.
“They offered to kind of be ... light at the end of the tunnel type of kids,” she said. “It’s just kind of a place where kids can feel like they’re not alone. So they know it’s not just happening to them.”
Stocks said the group will also be informational, identify bullying behaviors and all the different forms that can take.
Kate Bell-Morris, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the Teen Center, said the center wants to help kids understand that bullying is more than just violence.
“There are other things that happen,” she said. “With cyber bullying they go home and get on their social media, then they bring the drama to school the next day.”
Stocks said that as society changes, it’s becoming necessary to point out the different forms bullying can take on.
“Whether it’s racial, religious, gender-specific, all of those things. It’s important to address those issues as they come up,” she said.
Middle school students are at a unique point in life where they’re trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in, Stocks said. That makes them more susceptible to either being bullied or becoming the bullies themselves.
“Sometimes the easiest thing to do is make fun of someone else’s differences,” she said. “And they may turn to that as a fallback.”
Stocks said that can lead people who wouldn’t otherwise be seen as bullies to engage in bullying without even realizing that they are.
“That’s what I hope that some of these kids can gain from this group,” Stocks said. “By going to this group and hearing another kid talk about being called a name, maybe that will make them more aware of how they use their words and how they interact with people who might be different than them.”
Heather Lockamy, one of the teen advisors, is also hoping to implement a “Band-Aids for Bullying” wall at Grand County Middle School. Students would be able to anonymously write on Band-Aids the ways they felt they had been bullied, and the statements would be posted on the wall for others to read.
“We tend to turn a blind eye if it’s not really happening to us,” Bell-Morris said. “If there’s something like that where you can read and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that would hurt someone’s feelings,’ that could help.”
The club will meet twice a month at the Moab Teen Center. The next meeting will be Jan. 24 at 3 p.m.