Middle school wraps up ‘Boot Out Bullying’ campaign

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Cassville resident and parent Brian Heap, left, won a pair of custom Justin Boots during a girls middle school basketball game Dec. 4 at Cassville Middle School, wrapping up an anti-bullying campaign in which the boot company and the school joined forces to boot out bullying incidences at school. More than $400 was raised from the sale of raffle tickets by Student Council members during home games over the course of the semester, which will be used to purchase resources and tools to help educate students about bullying. In photo, CMS Principal Jimmie Barton, right, presents the boots to Heap. Contributed photo

Winner takes home customized Justin brand boots

The ‘Boot Out Bullying’ campaign, a partnership between Justin Boots and Cassville Middle School, wrapped up Dec. 4 during a girls basketball game when Cassville parent Brian Heap’s name was drawn to win the pair of boots, which will be manufactured to his specifications.

Earlier this year, the company joined forces with the school to raise funds for anti-bullying education when members of Student Council sold raffle tickets at home games, and the company agreed to donate a custom-made pair of boots manufactured at their factory location in Cassville at the conclusion of the campaign.

More than $400 was raised during the campaign, which took place over the first semester.

Middle school administrators and the student council are now tasked with deciding how to best utilize the funds to educate students and faculty on identifying and preventing bullying incidences at school.

“We’re looking at ways to utilize the money to help promote anti-bullying,” said Jimmie Barton, CMS principal. “We plan to sit down with our student council and get some input as to what they think would be good initiatives for them, posters and signs, a guest speaker or other programs we could implement.

The biggest issue in bullying, Barton said, is not whether or not it occurs, or how often, but getting students to come forward to report incidences.

“There’s a real fear on their part that they’ve done something wrong to cause it, or that they will get in trouble themselves,” he said. “So, maybe the approach is giving kids that freedom and voice that you do need to speak up for yourself, and others.”

More students are beginning to take those steps, Barton said.

“We have [seen] more reporting [by students] for other students who maybe wouldn’t have reported the incident, which helps us in heading it off at the pass,” he said. “Like we tell students all the time, this age is rough enough. They’re going through emotional and physical changes, and to top it all off, have people that just plain aren’t nice.”

Fear and retaliation continue to be the prevailing force that keeps many students from reporting bullying incidences, which can involve annoying and unwelcome behaviors, emotionally traumatic or even dangerous, depending on what occurs. A student can report it, and reports remain anonymous, but in many cases, the perpetrator will eventually probably find out who reported the incident. However, if it goes unreported, the bullying usually continues. So, it can be a catch-22 situation, meanwhile eroding a student’s self-esteem, interfering with school work and even affecting their quality of life in severe cases.

“It’s very difficult,” Barton said. “At some point, [the bully] will find out. That’s why we try to bring students in to educate them about it. Kids are getting a pretty good grasp that bullying is a serious issue. For instance, when we bring them in, they’ll be told the person they’re doing this to doesn’t like it, it isn’t right, and if you do not stop, we will look at consequences, and that could be very severe.”

There’s also the challenge of sorting out a myriad of issues and conflicts that typically occur between students during the school day.

“A lot of times, we’ll have reports that students say are bullying, but really are two people having a disagreement,” Barton said. “And we try to educate on what bullying really is. Sometimes, they hear these words thrown out in the news and it becomes commonplace in vocabulary, but they don’t really understand the meaning and context.

“The school counselor has a working lunch, and her goal is to reach all kids by the end of school year to talk to them about bullying. She’ll pull in about six to eight kids, and discuss what is and isn’t bullying, and reporting those things.”

Justin Boots plans to continue to ‘boot out’ bullying behaviors by taking their campaign to the high school at a future tentative date next semester, and are willing to continue booting out bullying over the long haul.

“Justin Boots has indicated that if we want to do the campaign again, we can repeat and expand it,” Barton said. “Hopefully we will see some positive results.”

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