Sixth-graders at East Antioch Elementary participated in a debate about anti-bullying as part of National Bullying Prevention month in October.
Prior to the debate, representatives from Sunflower House, a children’s advocacy and abuse prevention center visited classrooms. Following the visit, students wrote a persuasive paper on anti-bullying. These papers helped form the supporting and opposing sides for the debate.
The supporting side was in favor of fining bullies. The students on the opposing side argued against fining bullies.
The supporting side opened the debate. Each side gave an introduction, three supporting reasons, and a closing argument. Students not involved in the debate served as audience members, sitting on the side of the class that represented the side of the argument they supported. As they listened to the debate, audience members formed questions to pose to each team.
After each side presented, the teams answered rebuttal questions on topics about family finances, anger issues, and victims.
“If my friend is getting hit, it feels like I am getting hit too,” Tammer Huneida, sixth-grade student observed. “It can be a never-ending loop.” Huneida represented the team in favor of fining bullies.
As the debate concluded, Suzanne Southerland, debate coach and fifth-grade teacher, challenged the students to talk about what “help” would look like in bullying situations. The students responded with the following ideas:
· Talk to a trusted adult
· Talk to the victim to help them be stronger
· Get counseling
· Do community service
· Have a conversation
The following week, Southerland challenged students to apply what they learned. Students concluded the number one reason someone might bully others is because they are different from them. They discussed a bully and a victim may have the same personality traits, suggesting the bully may have been a victim themselves.
In exploring solutions to their findings, students felt it necessary to focus on both victims and the bullies. They said they believed showing empathy to a bully was the best way to get positive feedback from the bully, such as asking “Are you okay?”
Now, East Antioch sixth-grade students will serve as student leaders and share information and educate students in other grade levels to help prevent bullying. They will write lesson plans that will include videos, posters, and skits. One of their suggested slogans is “Lead Your Own Defense,” and a student-written rap is in the works.