South Philadelphia: Eighth-Grade Project Explores Bullying

Nebinger Principal Ralph Burnley reassured students they should wear their anti-bullying bracelets if they wanted to pass the project.

Fresh from being outside in the fall air, eighth graders filed into the George W. Nebinger auditorium Monday morning to meet with their principal, Dr. Ralph Burnley.

With less than a year left before heading to high school, the students and Burnley met to discuss their final service-learning projects.

A student showed off her bracelet during a progress meeting with Principal Ralph Burnley.

Aimed to address bullying, the students will create presentations to show to younger peers as well as perform skits to demonstrate how to deal with bullies.

Along with signs hanging in the hallways – “Our school believes, achieves, succeeds bully free!” the banners read – the students promote the anti-bullying sentiment by wearing bracelets. Wearing the plastic bracelets, which read, “I’ll stand up to bullies,” is an important part of the project, Burnley told students.

“You want the little kids to come up to you and say, ‘What’s that?’ so that they’re interested,” he said after several students were caught sans-bracelets.

While some schools in the district use the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Nebinger utilizes a behavior modification program called Second Step.

“It teaches kids how to get along with each other, how to practice peer mediation, how to resolve their differences without being violent, and how to use proper language to each other and with each other,” Burnley said.

Principal Burnley and Nebinger counselor Joann Carfango looked over the students' schedules to determine the best times to practice the skits they'll present.

The students will go into their assigned classrooms two or three times a week to discuss the consequences of cursing, teasing and using physical force. Though Burnley said there are “isolated situations” at Nebinger where he has to address bullying, he said he likes the program because bullying is not just a local issue. It’s also ageless.

“I don’t think it’s prevalent in any one particular grade,” he said. “Our fifth and sixth graders seem to be a little more challenged, so we are concentrating on them.”

“We haven’t had anything come up with extreme violence,” he added, “but we want to be proactive about the importance of getting along with each other, supporting the school and supporting your individual classmates.”

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