Cleburne ISD is one of many districts across the state taking a stand against bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month.
CISD students will participate in various activities throughout October, one of which is today at Coleman Elementary School. A group of fifth-graders, led by James Leifeste, plan to present an original anti-bullying skit to the student body to raise awareness and promote the importance of kindness and respect for others.
“I hope the kids will see how we should show respect,” Leifeste said. “We shouldn’t be ugly to people. We should go the extra mile to do good deeds for people.”
Dr. Ayman Arouse, a pediatrician on the staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne, said bullying begins in elementary school but typically becomes more troublesome in middle and high school.
“It’s not an uncommon issue,” Arouse said. “In a pediatric office, it’s a topic you see — not daily, obviously — but you see it. You get parents sometimes asking how to cope with it and kids asking how to handle it.”
Leifeste said he decided to do something to combat bullying after watching an anti-bullying movie with his cousin.
“It was an amazing movie,” he said. “It really touched our hearts and made us think. We don’t want our friends or someone in our family to feel the way bullying had made the kids feel in that movie.”
Coleman counselor Valerie Ard said 11-year-old Liefeste’s desire to make things better is typical for him.
“He’s always oriented toward a mission,” she said. “Last year he brought us a proposal relating to community service, and now he’s leading this anti-bullying project. James always has a cause, and he is so compassionate and polite. We feel he will be a politician someday.”
Leifeste also hopes to establish a “Stand for the Silent” chapter at his school. Stand for the Silent was organized in 2010 by a group of Oklahoma City students to bring awareness to bullying and the devastation it can create in lives, schools and communities.
Coleman students on Wednesday took their anti-bullying campaign a step further by taking a campus-wide pledge to stop bullying by wearing orange in observance of Unity Day and bullying prevention awareness. Gerard Elementary School students donned orange Thursday. Cooke Elementary School students plan to sign pledges today to keep their campus bully free.
Arouse said that preventing bullying before children are out of elementary school keeps children mentally and physically safe.
“[Bullying] could sometimes affect their self-esteem in the long run when they are adults,” he said. “Kids also get suicidal and feel like it’s not worth it to live. There are definitely more mental health issues than physical.”
Much of the bullying, Arouse said, comes from online sources like Facebook and other social media.
“To be proactive, we need to spread the message,” he said. “Always talk to your child about bullying. Even if they are not bullied, they should not be a bystander. Always ask kids about school, ask about how things are going. Be proactive about it and if you have a child that has been bullied, it’s always good to talk to them about issues. Help them have good self esteem, help them be firm, to stand up for themselves.
“Always be a role model. Always try to talk to them and have them basically see how you handle things. Work on incentives and taking privileges away.”
Lisa Magers contributed
to this story.