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Pledging to be the good guy

NEW LONDON -- Lunch was over and there was a blur of orange T-shirts, dresses, hoodies and headbands as students crowded around a banner Tuesday in the hallway of the New London-Spicer Prairie Woods Elementary School.

New London-Spicer elementary students were encouraged to wear orange and sign their names on a banner Tuesday, making a commitment to take a stand against bullying. The anti-bullying pledge is part of the National Unity Day against bullying that's being marked Wednesday across Minnesota and the country. NLS doesn't have school today and held their event Tuesday.Carolyn Lange / Tribune
New London-Spicer elementary students were encouraged to wear orange and sign their names on a banner Tuesday, making a commitment to take a stand against bullying. The anti-bullying pledge is part of the National Unity Day against bullying that's being marked Wednesday across Minnesota and the country. NLS doesn't have school today and held their event Tuesday. Carolyn Lange / Tribune

NEW LONDON - Lunch was over and there was a blur of orange T-shirts, dresses, hoodies and headbands as students crowded around a banner Tuesday in the hallway of the New London-Spicer Prairie Woods Elementary School.

Without hesitation, students took markers and signed their names to the "Unite Against Bullying" banner hanging on the wall outside the lunchroom.

By doing so, students promised not to be a bully and also promised to help others who are being bullied.

"It's important to sign against bullies because then you wouldn't get bossed around or get pushed or get hurt," said Alex Meis, 9, a third-grader explaining why he signed the pledge.

Meis said students need to treat each other with respect and just be nice. "Because then you don't see the crying face," he said.

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NLS students were encouraged to wear orange and sign the pledge as part of the National Unity Day that's being marked Wednesday in schools in Minnesota and across the country. NLS does not have school today because of conferences, and conducted its event a day early, said Elementary Principal Randy Juhl.

"We're standing together against bullying," Juhl said. "Our goal is to reach out to show acceptance to everyone and show unity in a way we can promote the positive choices we continue to make."

October is bully prevention month.

The Minnesota Department of Education encouraged students and teachers to wear orange Wednesday to "show solidarity" against bullying.

The campaign is sponsored by the PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center based in Minneapolis.

"Orange provides a powerful, visually compelling expression of solidarity," said Paula Goldberg, Executive Director of PACER Center, in a statement on the group's website. "When hundreds of individuals in a school or organization wear orange, the vibrant statement becomes a conversation starter, sending the unified message to kids to know that they are not alone."

According to Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, one in every four school-aged students - about 13 million kids - will be bullied this year.

"It's important these students know they are not alone and that they have the right to feel safe," Hertzog said in the organization's website. By wearing orange on Unity Day, communities can "send the unified message that we care about student's physical and emotional health and that bullying will no longer be accepted in this society."

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At NLS, Juhl said the anti-bullying message is practiced throughout the year but the special Unity Day gave students an opportunity to make a commitment and "make sure they are not being a bully and to know that they would stand up for anyone that is being bullied,"

The activity was a way for students to say "let's look out for everyone because no one likes it when they're being treated inappropriately or being bullied," Juhl said.

Related Topics: SPICER
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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