December 14, 2011 - Goodrich-A four-minute Youtube video has sparked a tougher stand against bullying.
McEntire (click for larger version)
Riley McEntire, a GHS senior, is the founder of the TAB (Teens Against Bullying) Project. Begun on Dec. 5 as a page on Facebook, it has since evolved to more than 150 members and numerous posts by students on their personal stories about being bullied.
McEntire says that the inspiration came from hearing about bullying happening at Goodrich as well as a Youtube video that recently went viral, made by 14-year-old Jonah Mowry and detailing his personal experience with bullying. Jonah wrote his story on a series of notecards. He was bullied beginning in the first grade and it continued to when he filmed the video, shortly before beginning the eighth grade.
"I sat on my bed and cried," recalled McEntire of his initial reaction to the video.
"I couldn't wrap my brain around why people would feel the need to make someone else feel like that. I had been there and I put myself into his shoes. There wasn't anything that I could do for him, but I knew that I could do something for a lot of other kids."
The student organization was formed one day before Gov. Rick Snyder signed an anti-bullying bill into a law, giving schools six months to have an anti-bullying policy in place. Also known as "Matt's Safe School Law," the legislation also requires schools to follow several guidelines for the policy such as specifically stating the prohibition of bullying of a student, how the policy is to be publicized, and the procedures to notify parents or legal guardians of students involved in acts of bullying.
Superintendent John Fazer emphasized several measures are in place to prevent bullying among students in addition to the current district-wide anti-bullying policy. Guest speakers are invited throughout the year to speak with students on bullying and how to beat it.
"Freshman high school students participate in a leadership program teaching students the art of "being a good citizen, being a leader, and treating each other with respect," he said. "When we become aware of it, we deal with it."
McEntire believes that bullying is an issue at every high school, no matter how minimal.
"Bullying is an epidemic and we need to have people who are willing to do something about it," he said. "The TAB motto is: 'Putting teens on the front lines of the war on bullying,' meaning that since it's the students who are witnesses to bullying, then who better to take on the mission of anti-bullying than themselves."
McEntire believes the biggest causes of bullying are ignorance, being closed-minded, and the inability to accept people as they are.
"Bullying is a problem for teens, and I believe that teachers and students can get together and think of ideas to make it stop," said McEntire. "This is a problem, there has to be a solution."
He encourages students to come and join the council.
"I don't know how to stop and prevent bullying," admitted McEntire. "I need help to think of good ideas and that's what the TAB councils are for, teens getting together to think of creative ways to prevent and stop bullying."
Students can make the pledge to end bullying on the official TAB Project Facebook page. In honor of Mowry's bravery, McEntire and fellow TAB supporters have taken pictures of themselves with a single notecard or piece of paper with their words to pledge. Students are also invited to share their personal stories of encounters with bullying. Students have posted stories about being bullied with hurtful words and their fear to go through another day, but the overwhelming message is that it does get better and to support each other to be a stronger person.
For being a relatively new organization, McEnitre calls it "a complete success." He expects an official website for the TAB Project to be up by Christmas, and to begin having student-oriented meetings in early January.
"I want TAB to be in many schools," McEntire said. "Not for me, not for us, but for every kid that needs help, who thinks they can't go on. TAB is us trying to make a difference for everyone."
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