Home Community Mattituck students teach third graders how to stand up to bullying

Mattituck students teach third graders how to stand up to bullying

The Mattituck SADD club presents a workshop to third graders at Cutchogue East. Photo: Katharine Schroeder

Statistics on the number of school-age children who’ve reported being bullied vary from 20 percent to nearly 30 percent, but there’s a group of local students who would like to see those numbers shrink.

Mattituck High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club is on a mission to raise awareness about bullying and to teach practical methods of dealing with it.

This morning a group of 20 SADD club members and their advisor, school social worker and advisor Andrea Nydegger, visited Cutchogue East Elementary to present workshops on bullying to third graders.

After introducing themselves one by one to the younger children and talking about their own experiences with bullying, the club members used a combination of a slide show, role-playing and discussion to present the concept of being an “upstander” instead of a bystander.

Photo: Katharine Schroeder

“A bystander is someone who, when they see someone being bullied, does nothing or laughs,” they told the third graders. “Bystanders are part of the problem because they do nothing.”

An “upstander” is someone who stands up for justice when they see bullying occurring.

It’s not always easy to intervene, they acknowledged. And a lot of times kids just don’t know what to do or are afraid to get involved.

Photo: Katharine Schroeder

The high schoolers provided several methods kids could use when they are confronted with bullying including walking way, telling an adult and being kind to the bullying victim. They warned against intervening in a physical altercation, encouraging the children to immediately notify an adult if there was a fight.

The group role-played the right and the wrong way to react to a bullying situation and the third-graders were asked to point out the differences they saw.

Photo: Katharine Schroeder

“Well, they weren’t upstanders in the beginning but then they became upstanders,” one boy pointed out.

“They wanted to make the girl who was being bullied feel better,” added another girl.

After the first of two workshops ended and while waiting for the second one to start, a group of SADD members talked about the difference in the types of bullying they experience as opposed to their parents’ generation.

“The bullying my parents had was much more physical, which is damaging for sure, but the bullying nowadays is more mental,” said one boy. “We don’t see as many fistfights.”

Another girl spoke of the damage that mental bullying can do, saying that whoever came up with the “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” saying was “so inaccurate.”

“Words have much more of a lasting impact,” she said.

When asked if they found that a lot of bullying on social media, the group replied with a resounding “YES!”

“People feel a lot more comfortable saying anything they want behind a screen so they can’t see the person’s reaction,” said one boy. “If someone were to say something against someone in person, they might be too shy but if it’s behind a screen they can say whatever they want.”

“Bullying has progressed over the years to having a platform on social media,” said another student. 

“It’s very prevalent,” agreed one girl. “I don’t think there’s one person I know who hasn’t been bullied.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 25 the SADD club is hosting National Unity Day district wide. This is a day that encourages students and staff to stand together against bullying and unite for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. The SADD club has purchased unity bracelets for the entire district with a positive message and are encouraging all to wear the color orange. 

Katharine is a writer and photographer who has lived on the North Fork for nearly 40 years, except for three-plus years in Hong Kong a decade ago, working for the actor Jackie Chan. She lives in Cutchogue. Email Katharine