First United Methodist Church Pastor Tony Alstott gets a little help with his microphone from Northview Media Specialist Nancy Ewing before taping a 60-second film clip for Northview High School's BAH Week activities.
Jocks, preps, skaters, hicks, nerds, geeks, gangstas, Goths and wannabes all have three things in common: They're teenagers trying to find a comfortable place to fit into their social structure during their high school years.
"Every student is important here," Northview Principal Jim Church said at last week's Community Appreciation Breakfast at the high school. "They all deserve the right to be safe when they walk down the hallways of our school."
Contrary to what some will tell you, children are not always wonderful little darlings that play well together.
Administrators and teachers will tell you, bullying happens.
"It's not an issue of when will it happen here, because it is already happening," Superintendent William Schad said. "Sooner or later we need to have the conversation with the community about bullying. It's not just our problem alone, it's everyone's. What's going on inside our schools, is happening beyond the school doors."
All teenagers, especially those struggling through puberty in households without much adult influence, feel insecure about something. These teens seek out groups of like-minded peers, creating exclusive social cliques.
Some teens are unintentional bullies: Those preoccupied with material possessions who ridicule or avoid students from less afluent backgrounds don't realize the pain experienced by a fellow classmate who just wants to be friends.
Intentional bullies are teens who attempt to forget their own negative self-image by ridiculing fellow students. Pointing out the shortcomings of others, whether related to personal appearance or material possessions, gives bullies a feeling of supremacy over their victims.
This sometimes creates battle lines between the "haves" and the "have nots," and many times this is when bullying and harassment begin. Bullies often think of friendship in terms of power and control while trying to find a way to be accepted by their peers.
According to the American Justice Department, one out of every four children will be abused by another child. Using this statistic, it is estimated that 288 students of the enrolled 1,152 students at North-view High School could be victims of bullying, whether reported or not.
BAH Week is a student-driven effort to reach and teach their peers that respecting one another is important not only as a student, but throughout their lives.
"It's exciting to see the students be the driving force behind this event," Church said. "When students take it upon themselves to be leaders of an issue, things happen, but we need the community's input as well."
Many of the area business leaders, pastors, and local government officials attending March 15th's Community Appreciation Breakfast were concerned enough to make 60-second film clips about the necessity of respecting one another in the work place and in the community. These clips will be shown throughout BAH Week events on the school's morning NTV announcement show.
"Bullying and harassment is not only a school issue. It doesn't start at school. It might fester there, but it starts outside the school doors, often times in the home," Mayor Tom Arthur said. "There needs to be awareness throughout the community of how the actions and words of bullying can be, and are, harmful to others."
Taking his beliefs a step further, Arthur designated this week as Bullying and Harassment Awareness Week in the city of Brazil to coincide with the school's activities.
Arthur agrees the community needs a visual reminder of the bullying issues some students face everyday. Motorists traveling along U.S. 40 in Brazil will see ribbons Northview Student Council members have placed on the street lights. The pattern of three purple ribbons and one orange ribbon on four consecutive poles represent the national statistic that one in four students are victims of bullying. Students at Northview will also have the same ribbons placed on their lockers during BAH Week.
School officials are looking forward to student and community feedback during this week, whether positive or negative.
"If you have comments, ideas or suggestions, call us," Church said. "North-view is a terrific place, but we want to make it even better."