Are you bullied? Are you a bully? Those were some of the questions children's author Dori Hillestad Butler posited to Armstrong-Ringsted and Sentral students Wednesday in Armstrong.
A children's author with 27 books under her belt - plus another 10 titles ghostwritten for two series - the Sweet Valley Twins and Boxcar Children - the bulk of Hillestad Butler's comments dealt not with her career or the glamorous career of writing, but with bullying and its impact on others.
She revealed the results of a survey that asked students whether they had been bullied - or if they were bullies themselves. The survey also included whether one felt excluded from a group or excluded others. Other survey questions dealt with cyber bullying, physical bullying, whether one sees other kids bullied or whether one hears rumors about others.
While the results were pretty much on par with other schools, Hillestad Butler asked students to think about the impact of their behavior on others, to put themselves in their place.
It was a fantastic program, one of which Armstrong-Ringsted administration and staff and Hillestad Butler can be truly proud. Especially at the formative middle-school age, bullying can shape and form one's self-image, impressions of others and ability to interact socially for a lifetime. Children with a severely damaged psyche have more difficulty learning and forming meaningful relationships. They're more prone to divorce and to a lack of professional success later on in life.
The program was truly a great public service performed for its students.
Now it's time for a follow-through, whether it's a peer mentoring program, more speakers or regularly scheduled group discussions as part of the school day.
Armstrong-Ringsted staff have made a great start in the right direction.
Now let's see if other schools can follow their lead.