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Schools increase anti-bullying efforts before new school year

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Jul. 25, 2018 at 10:25 PM CDT
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It's the last few weeks of summer vacation for most Wiregrass students.

As you're thinking about supplies and the perfect outfit for the first day, a lot of teachers are focusing on how to make their classroom and hallways a safe space for learning.

For some ... Middle school can be hard between puberty, bullying and struggles with self esteem.

Darius mckay, principal, Girard Middle School

"A lot of kids face a lot of you know not so positive words at home so when they arrive here it's kind of like a safe place.."

As teachers prepare for a new school year.. they hope to turn those negatives into positives.

Principal McKay says, "Any time we can expose our students to positive messages, we try to do it.."

And they did on an unexpected place. The bathroom stalls.

"these aren't just ordinary bathroom stalls.. they are painted with inspirational messages to uplift and hopefully be that positive light in a moment of darkness."

"You are amazing. You are brave. You are strong."

"Aim high. And dream big.."

"why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

Just a few of the newly painted messages hoping to build the confidence in each student.

While the paintings are a good start, in order to truly change the face of bullying and low self esteem, teachers say these messages must be reinforced in the classroom.

"i believe it starts with me first.."

At honeysckle middle school.. sharon bennett is working hard to deter bullying.

Sharon Bennett, 7/8 grade teacher, honeysuckle middle school

" middle school is where students are trying to find their self worth and find their identity. So as an educator i have a no "janking" policy in my classroom.. so i try to teach them ways to walk away or if somebody says something negative to say something positive back.."

She also painted her classroom calming colors, posted positive messages throughout the room, and makes sure to remind each student that they are special.

"I think that's really what this project is all about.. is positive words impacting our students."