Friendship conquers bullying

Friendship defeats bullying.

Shuford Elementary School students learned that message all week during programs, contests and lessons that taught them no one has to be a victim of bullies.

"We learned how to help your friends when there are bullies," said fifth-grader Tamiya Artis. "If you do something good, you get something in return — friends."

Daily themes shaped the week's activities. Students wore hats Tuesday to "put a lid on bullying." On another day, students wore tie-dyed shirts and some read quotes about peace on the school's intercom.

"Some people think it's just elementary school children, so they don't have to worry about bullying, or that it's just something everyone has to go through in school," said Katie Vaughn, who serves as Shuford's guidance counselor and organized anti-bullying week events. "That's just not the case anymore. By teaching them there are skills they can use to stand up against bullying at an early age, it gives them many more tools they can use as they get older."

All of Shuford's students and staff gathered in the school cafeteria Friday afternoon to celebrate those tools and recap what they learned.

Several students were awarded for winning entries in anti-bullying drawing and writing contests.

Suddenly, Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" started playing on the room's speakers.

Students and teachers, many wearing brightly colored Shuford shirts, stepped out of the crowd and danced their way to a stage.

A sudden synchronized dance, known as a "flash mob," ensued. The dance was an idea technology teacher Laura Hall received from a friend. Hall saw an anti-bullying "flash mob" video on YouTube and shared the idea with Vaughn.

"I thought 'we've got to do this,'" Hall said. "This would be perfect for this week."

Cassidy Geddes, Caleb Henze, Luke Canrobert and other students and teachers shimmied their bodies, waved their arms and shared a message with the school that being unique is OK and bullying is not.

"That was great," Luke said, "because we all became friends."