Don’t Stand By. Stand Up!

Article by Kokoro Igawa, Writer

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Bullying prevails in schools and communities around the globe, which is why a few months ago, ASIJ ninth and tenth graders watched the 2011 documentary Bully. This documentary deeply touched the hearts of many, inspiring them to think about bullying in our community. I interviewed a handful of students to find out how the movie impacted them, as well as how they feel bullying impacts our community.

When asked what lesson she took away from the movie, ninth grader Elizabeth Handte said, “Even a simple gesture can impact someone greatly to the point where it may save their life. People don’t realize that words are powerful, and have a large impact.” Tenth-grade student Rachel Wexler explained that the biggest takeaway for her personally was that watching bullying happen and doing nothing as a bystander is just as bad as being the perpetrator. Wexler commented that we need to stand up for others.

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If we experience bullying, we are told to tell an adult. Adults cannot able to help a student unless they are made aware of it. But as one ninth-grade student suggested, the only way that adults can help students deal with issues such as bullying is by first building a foundation of trust with them. Students will most likely not open up about their personal issues unless they feel as though they can rely on the adult to truly listen and help them with their concerns. At ASIJ, our teachers repeatedly tell us students that we have their support and trust; however, trust is an emotion that can take years for some people to build and can be even more difficult to maintain. Luckily, most ASIJ students have a trusted adult that they can go to, regardless of whether it is a teacher or not.

Regarding the atmosphere of ASIJ as well as how bullying makes its mark in our community, students were very much in accord. Numerous people acknowledged that although bullying does exist at our school, it definitely is not as prevalent as in other schools, and is not as severe as the bullying that was seen in the documentary. The forms of bullying that are seen specifically in our community are mostly verbal and online, in the form of cyberbullying. Online harassment is particularly worrying because the perpetrators have the ability to hide behind their screens.

Watching the documentary Bully sparked conversations between students, and it has made them more conscious of the repercussions of their words and actions. Bullying is a common problem at all schools, including ASIJ, and it is an issue that cannot be ignored and dismissed.

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Bullying will not go away on its own; it needs to be talked about and discussed, not only between students but in classrooms as well. Moreover, people need to advocate for those in situations where they are being bullied. When we students see our peers being teased or picked on, we cannot simply watch from the sidelines. We need to take action and be an upstander, not a bystander. Our supportive words and kind acts could help those who suffer and make a lasting difference in their lives.