The Mexico School District — like every district in the nation — has dealt with bullying issues in its buildings. But two local teams of educators, parents and community leaders are taking proactive strides to stop the negative behavior, before reactions are required.
The surprising aspect is the students seem to be listening to the messages.
Below is an in-class assignment written by a Mexico Middle School student. The paper is signed "L" per the school's request:
"Bullying takes its toll and changes lives when bad enough. Some schools don't take it serious but Mexico Public Schools are taking a serious approach and doing everything they can to stop this epidemic."
The student goes on to write, "The fact that MPS is doing everything they can to stop this is brilliant. Let's face it, bullying is like a virus. Once it's released, you can just ignore it, or release a vaccine. When schools become bully-free like this one, everybody will be very successful and able to focus on learning. MPS is a great school district, and the Mexico Middle School Bulldogs are taking a bite out of bullying. — signed 'L.'"
At the beginning of each school year, the district hands out a Staff, Parent and Student Handbook called "Bully-Free Schools" that contains information on the district's goal to create a school culture in which all types of bullying are unacceptable, and ways to implement procedures for intervention, investigation and confrontation of students engaged in bullying behavior.
The handbook addresses how to identify bullying, the effects of bullying, what to do if your child is being bullied and what to do if your child is the bully. Information is also available on ways to empower victims, bystanders and witnesses on how to intervene without fear of retaliation.
"Never tell your child to ignore it," says MMS Guidance Counselor Julie Lower. "What your child may hear instead is that you are going to ignore it."
Lower is one of several district staff who sits on the Bully Free Schools Committee. The committee offers staff training and topics to educate students in each building monthly. Last year, the district hosted "Rachel's Challenge," a campaign aimed at overcoming bullying with kindness at the middle school and high schools, and a production of the "The Jellybean Conspiracy," which brings people of different gifts together as one.
Mexico has a parent-led organization, called Strength4Youth, that is working to create an after-school program and has applied for a grant to purchase a building.
"We want to encourage our youth to step forward and speak up for their rights as an individual, and to be proud that they did," said Strength4Youth Vice President Crystal Coons.
For more information about the Bully Free School Committee, contact the Mexico Public School Central Office at 573-581-3773 or the Mexico Middle School at 573-581-4664. Those interested in taking part in the Strength4youth organization, can text Strength4youth @textem.net for more information.