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Fourth-grader Andrew Wade says he loves school.
"My favorite things are reading, math, social studies, science," he said. "The only thing I don't like about school is the bullies."
Andrew, 10, and a handful of his classmates at South Newton Elementary School started an anti-bullying club this week, and the children call themselves the "Bully Busters." The students created posters with anti-bullying messages, such as "No Bullies Allowed," and watched videos about how to stop bullying in school.
"It's for people who need help," Andrew said. "Maybe we can get kids who are bullying to be nice to others every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays."
Earlier this year, Catawba County Schools and Newton-Conover City Schools officials said bullying is increasing at all levels of education. Officials encouraged children to report bullying in all forms â€” including cyber-bullying on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter â€” and parents to get involved in solving the issue.
Andrew said a student bullied him beginning in second grade. The bullying got worse in third grade before it got better this school year. He said he believes children bully others because they look, talk or act differently.
Andrew has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form around nerves. In children and adults, the disorder takes many forms and can cause neurological problems, skeletal problems, learning disabilities, bumps under the skin, colored spots and other issues, according to information from the Children's Tumor Foundation.
The disorder affects Andrew's left leg, and he visits a Shriners hospital every six months for treatment. He said he enjoys visiting the hospital because it has fish, video games, toys and lots of food.
Doctors also check on the brace he wears on his left leg.
"It doesn't slow him down," South Newton Principal Julie Styers said Thursday.
"Andrew read a newspaper article about bullying," Styers said. "He's a car-rider and when he got out of the car one morning he asked if we could talk about it. His mom had him do research on the Internet and he had this idea."
The South Newton bullying club will meet each Thursday morning. Styers said simple actions â€” such as children rolling their eyes and sighing â€” can be signs of bullying.
"We want to make everybody aware about bullying, even when it's not obvious," she said. "We want to put a stop to it. We want to be a no-bullying school."
Andrew said he wants everyone in school to get along.
"We've talked about bullying and how it's rude," he said. "It doesn't have to happen. I hope more kids can come who have been bullied. Maybe bullies can come, too, and talk to other kids and just be nice."