Every Tuesday at lunchtime, a group of middle school students gathers to pursue their passion. Unlike clubs for other interests and hobbies, students in this group are driven by an ambitious (and personal) goal: to eradicate bullying.
The Anti-Bullying Club (ABC) was established earlier this quarter with just a few members. Since then, it has grown to include more than 20 students committed to promoting respect and understanding among their peers.
"Bullying might not be as big a problem at ISB, but it does exist in different forms. What might be teasing or having fun to one person can be hurtful to another. Our message is that it's a problem we can solve together," explained Edric K, a member of the group's executive team.
According to 2013 study, nearly one-third of students in grades 6 to 12 in the US will experience bullying. It can involve various forms, from unwanted aggressive behavior to social exclusion in person and online.
As one of ABC's founding members, Marie K said her personal experience being bullied inspired her to make a difference.
"I was never the kind of person who would say, 'you should stop.' I always tried to deal with my problems on my own, but eventually I realized it's more meaningful to have others involved," she said.
Marie initially confided in friend Isabel S, also in grade 7, about her bullying. This laid the groundwork for a dialogue among students who shared their own experiences. Some had been bullies, others had been victims – and all wanted to unite to make a change.
Middle school counselor Bertha Knox, who helps facilitate ABC meetings, said the group's purpose is "about getting students to look at the choices that they make."
"I'm excited because they are the ones who initiated it. When it's driven by students, they put the effort into it to make it work. It also sends a message to the ISB community that these are our core values and we support them," she explained.
"As teachers and parents, we can tell kids about what choices to make and how to resolve problems. But at the end of the day, we aren't in a lot of the places they are. We want them to make the right choices when we're not present."
Annabel L, another member of the group's executive team, described ABC as an empowering movement that has given students a deeper understanding of ISB's L21 skills.
"We've all learned something through forming the group. Leadership and collaboration can be difficult. We knew what we wanted to achieve and were willing to work hard, but ultimately our success has been through communication. We had to share our vision and motivate others to come together," she said.