Sweethearts & Heroes returns with anti-bullying tips

Adult and four students pose for photo

Ending bullying may seem like a complex problem. But as students at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School learned this week, it can be as easy as A-B-C.

Guest speakers Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh brought their “Sweethearts & Heroes” presentation back to Herkimer on Wednesday to remind students that everyone has the power to make a difference in the lives of others. The duo previously gave their presentation at Herkimer in January 2018.

Murphy, a former mixed martial arts fighter, and Yarosh, an Iraq veteran who bears the scars of a severe combat injury, shared a message of hope for students in grades 6-12. They urged all students to be  “sweethearts” — being a friend to those who need one — and “heroes” — jumping into action when someone needs help, and reminded students that no one should be a bystander to bullying without taking action.

Practice makes perfect

Murphy and Yarosh pointed out that most students aren’t bullies, or victims, but bystanders — and thereby capable of stepping in. They described the ABCs of anti-bullying, and gave students the chance to act out “bullying drills” to test out these strategies.

This type of hands-on practice really makes a difference for students, middle school Principal Zachary Abbe explained.

“The process makes it easy to follow,” Mr. Abbe said. “It’s explained in simple terms so that students know exactly what to do.”

Man with facial injuries holds microphone standing in front of stage

Teacher Sylvia Lowell said the emotional component of the presentation resonated with her students.

“Rick’s story really touched them,” she said. “They were really moved by it.”

But the lasting effect of the presentation, Mrs. Lowell said, will be the tactics her students learned.

“They made it so simple,” Mrs. Lowell observed. “Students aren’t always given such clear strategies about what to do in these situations.”

‘A common language’

Mrs. Lowell and Mr. Abbe said the “Sweethearts & Heroes” message will be something the school can continue to build on in the days, weeks and months to come.

“It gives us a common language,” Mrs. Lowell said. “But it’s like muscle memory — it’s something we’ll keep practicing.”

In Mrs. Lowell’s class, students will have the chance to practice next week, when they will be writing skits and doing role-playing activities using the strategies they learned on Wednesday.

“It’s really something that we just can’t stress enough,” Mrs. Lowell said, adding, “We all have a role to play in this.”

Students and an adult stand in the library

The Sweethearts & Heroes A-B-Cs

A = Away

Move the person who’s being bullied away from the situation. Make up an excuse if you have to; ask the person for help or just ask them to come with you for a minute.

B = Be their friend

Be kind and friendly to someone who has been the victim of bullying. Even a smile or “hello” can make a big difference. If you aren’t able to intervene when bullying is taking place, check in with the person afterward and ask them if they are OK.

C = Confront or Call for Help

If it’s safe for you to do so, let the bully know that you don’t agree with what they’re doing — especially if they’re your friend. If it’s not safe for you to intervene, get help from a trusted adult.

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