STREAMWOOD – Canton Middle School students took a stand against bullying this week.
More than 700 seventh and eighth grade students at the Streamwood school participated in a full day of anti-bullying activities on Wednesday, including a three mile walk around the school building.
Eighth grade reading teacher Anna Hallock McEvilly, who helped organize the event, said she and a few colleagues wanted to do something to recognize October as National Bullying Prevention Month.
McEvilly, along with Kendra Luft, a seventh- and eighth-grade reading teacher, and math teacher Gina Mendez began planning the day-long anti-bullying event in early September, after Luft received a flyer from the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education (PACER) Center about this year’s Unity Day on Oct. 9.
All three teachers co-chair the school’s discipline committee.
Though they initially wanted to hire a speaker for the event, McEvilly said they didn’t have enough time to book one and instead opted to show students the 2011 documentary “Bully” from director Lee Hirsch.
“A couple of us previewed it and I was in tears,” McEvilly said.
After the screening, students participated in team building activities as a way to show the kids that “it’s OK to talk to other people than those who are just our friends,” McEvilly said.
Then, students assembled for a three-mile hour-long walk around the school building, with PTO-provided water stations.
Students and faculty were also joined by elected officials and village employees.
“For an hour we [were] united as a whole building and whole community against bullying,” McEvilly said.
McEvilly and her colleagues decided to sell t-shirts for the students to wear to school that day and during the walk.
Staff members chose the color orange for the shirts, which is the color promoted by PACER, and students were encouraged to enter their own t-shirt designs as part of a contest.
The winning design features the school’s name and positive phrases such as, “we can love,” “we can help” and “we can encourage,” McEvilly said.
Nearly the entire student body purchased the $5 tees, and an additional 80 shirts were bought by parents.
Because the shirts paid for themselves, McEvilly said the school spent almost nothing on the event. In fact, she hopes to raise a total of $1,800 through t-shirts sales and raffling off items donated by parents.
The money raised will be used to fund fun activities, such as ice cream socials, for students who don’t receive discipline referrals, and to bring anti-bullying guest speakers to the school in the future, McEvilly said.
Specifically, McEvilly is interested in booking a speaker to discuss cyberbullying, an issue that Canton Principal Jeff Smith is also concerned about.
Though bullying has existed for as long as children have been in school, Smith said “the use of technology has made it easier to be able to bully.”
“More than anything else, I want students to come away [from the event] with the importance of respecting themselves, respecting others, the school, the community and families,” Smith said.
During her eight years teaching at the school, McEvilly said bullying has decreased. Still, both she and Smith agree that hosting anti-bullying events is important.
“I hope that kids will learn how other people feel when they are not kind to each other,” she said. “I hope this teaches them to think twice before they say or do something that might hurt somebody.”