While October is viewed as a month full of spooky stories, sweet candy and fall weather, there is a deeper meaning to the month that individuals often miss. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Throughout the month, schools, communities and organizations unite to eliminate all forms of bullying by trying to bring awareness and reduce the hatred and discrimination. This concept though, is easier said than done. Bullying is a problem at schools across the nation, Maclay included, but is often not taken seriously and dismissed with  a “it doesn’t happen here” atttitude; however it is very much a real issue, and we as a community need to do our part to stop it.

If you see something, say something. If you are being bullied or just a witness, it is important to speak up in order to limit the number of bullying cases in our society. As a person being bullied, you may often feel that speaking up makes you more of a target, but by not speaking up, you are keeping our feelings bottled up inside, which can lead to emotions and actions spiraling. If you’re being bullied or know someone who is being bullied, tell someone you trust. Someone who sees or knows that bullying is happening is known as a “bystander.” Bystanders can encourage bullying by simply doing nothing. We can help stop bullying by stepping in if it feels safe, reporting the bullying to a trustful adult and/or checking up on the person being bullied. Upper school guidance counselor Tammy Eubanks agrees and is working with administration to help encourage reporting and limit bullying on campus.

“If we can all agree to be what is called an upstander, which is when we witness something, we do something about it,” Eubanks said. “Either speak up, or if you do not feel comfortable speaking up, make contact in some way with the person you saw being victimized and let them know that you care.”

In order to be an upstander, students and victims must feel safe to make these reports. To make students feel safe, teachers need to create safe environments and form connections with their students. Studies also have shown that adults can help prevent bullying by encouraging students to do what they love, modeling respect and offering help when needed. Many teachers on campus already do this, like English Department Chair and teacher Lee Norment.

“I think it is important for teachers to create classroom environments like Mr. Norment’s room,” junior Copeland Frazee said. “Whenever I am having trouble with an assignment or just overall having a bad day, Mr. Norment is there to pick me up and give me advice. He is constantly asking individuals how they are doing and checking up on everyone. This not only makes me a better student, but also a better individual.”

For students, Eubanks’s office is viewed as a safe place to share feelings. Eubanks is willing to give advice and listen to those who have experienced bullying or want to share their personal stories. By creating a safe place where students can express their feelings, Eubanks is making those students feel like their voice is heard. Safety starts in the classroom and students should feel safe everywhere on campus. If everyone at Maclay can work together, we can create a climate where bullying is eliminated. 

Another way that Maclay can help limit the percentages of bullying on campus, is by continuing to implement and enforce activities to help encourage the discussion and recognition of bullying. Eubanks focused the first Wellness Tuesday and Thursday of this month around bullying prevention. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Eubanks asked the upper school to think about a few questions: “What makes someone a bully?” and “How do we classify bullying?” There were no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it was important to encourage students to answer them respectfully and honestly. By talking about bullying directly, it enforces an initial step in understanding how the issue could be affecting students. After answering the questions, Eubanks played a video centered around checking up on individuals and making sure they are “okay.” This Wellness Tuesday and Thursday was important for students to learn about what bullying is and how students can stand up to it safely. Eubanks can’t be the only one making an effort though, students and teacher’s attitudes around these discussions can make all the difference. 

“My homeroom class actively participated in the bullying discussions with well thought out points that were brought up by various students,” senior Evan Brown said. “Our main takeaway from last week was that everyone should be friendly and stick up for victims of bullying, even if it results in criticism.”

Aside from upstanding, reporting and taking this issue seriously, the biggest action we can take is to ensure that we are not participating in bullying ourselves. If you are consistently targeting someone whether in person or via social media with the intent to humiliate and embarrass them, you need to stop. Bullying should not be normalized; should not be a right of passage; and it certainly isn’t cool. If you are intentionally bullying someone, you are causing that person physical and emotional distress that include skipping school, changes in eating and sleeping habits, depression, anger, anxiety and harm to themselves or others. Partaking in bullying is unacceptable and as honorable Maclay students, it’s our job to put an end to it. 

Overall, we must come together as a community to take bullying seriously and make sure that it doesn’t have a place on our campus. Students, faculty and administration need to all work together to prevent bullying by encouraging upstanding, creating safe spaces and not participating in any bullying behaviors. Be the change; because even the smallest action can make all the difference in someone’s life.