Alta Loma Middle School students take anti-bullying awareness month seriously, and have some fun while they're at it.
Wednesday morning, 8th graders in an advanced art class and student leaders partnered up to perform "buddies, not bullies" skits for an audience of 6th and 7th graders.
"What do Robert Pattinson, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Barack Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Eminem have in common," the 8th graders on stage asked their fellow students in the packed auditorium. "They were bullied when they were kids."
Wednesday's assemblies were part of a month-long campaign to teach students about the harmful effects of bullying and strategies to stop it in their own lives.
Alta Loma isn't the only school participating in the awareness month. The San Mateo County Board of Education and the county superintendent have recently named this October "RESPECT 24/7" month, in order to kick off a two-year anti-bullying county-wide campaign.
"In 2010 the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury did a study on bullying policies in schools," said Nancy Magee of the county Office of Education. "They found that most districts didn’t have specific policies about bullying in particular, but that it was rolled into other things like harassment or intimidation. So they asked the county office of education to lead the effort in guiding schools to refine their policies."
As of last week, South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees had approved additional language in its policies to include bullying in particular.
Westborough Middle School students are discussing anti-bullying strategies each Tuesday this month and wearing blue shirts on Mondays, in solidarity with the campaign. Principal Ed Colucci said that Westborough held a schoolwide assembly this week to host Camfel, an organization that provides character-building programs.
Alta Loma art teacher Cait Collins, who led Wednesday's assemblies, said she has included peace and conflict-related lessons and activities for many years. Her efforts happen to dovetail with the countywide campaign this year.
Collins organized a showing of the documentary "Bully" at Alta Loma, and she said it had a big impact on many students.
"Even the boys were tearful," she said.
As part of the RESPECT 24/7 month, about 3,000 middle school students around the county will see the film at the Century theater in San Bruno or Redwood City on Oct. 22 and 26.
A San Mateo County Youth Town Hall will be held Oct. 27 at the College of San Mateo to wrap up the awareness month. Youth from San Mateo County, ages 12 to 22 are welcome. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, and to register, click here.
This Friday marks the close of an open contest that began Sept. 7 to find a logo for RESPECT 24/7. Students that want to submit a logo can email Nancy Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who presented at Alta Loma included Bianca, Rahaf, Russell, Pamela, Melvin, Lisia, Angel and Jaymee.
See PDF's attached here for the Civil Grand Jury report on bullying, a flyer with anti-bullying tips and photos of the Alta Loma assemblies.