The staff and students at Warren G. Harding Middle School have been trained to identify and react to bullying, and offenders face disciplinary action before they can even seek to return to the classroom.
Bullying is not OK at the school, according to principal Michael Calderone.
“Bullying is a very serious issue and is not tolerated at Harding,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Cartoon Network are impressed with the anti-bullying message preached at Harding, located at Torresdale Avenue and Wakeling Street in Frankford.
Casey visited the school on Feb. 20 to announce introduction of the Safe Schools Improvement Act to combat bullying. He was joined at the event by the president of the Cartoon Network and two of the stars of the show Level Up.
Cartoon Network, owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc., launched the Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign in October 2010 to send the message that bullying is unacceptable and to motivate bystanders to prevent it.
In the 11 weeks since the visit by the lawmaker and Cartoon Network representatives, the students have embraced the anti-bullying message, their principal said. They enjoy wearing their Stop Bullying: Speak Up T-shirts.
“We’re allowing the kids to wear them as a uniform shirt,” Calderone said. “It’s another reinforcement of the message. It’s a great visual reminder.”
Harding has had anti-bullying measures in place since the beginning of the school year. As the year draws to a close, the school is continuing to press the message.
On May 10, Municipal Court Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde will visit the school to lead an assembly on cyber bullying.
When the judge and all others walk toward the school entrance, they’ll notice the anti-bullying flag atop a flagpole.
“It flies every morning,” Calderone said.
When he visited Harding, Casey explained that his legislation would require schools and school districts that receive federal money to follow a code of conduct designed to stamp out bullying and to keep statistics on the number of students who are bullied. Those schools must also take steps to prevent the abuse.
The bill has more than 40 co-sponsors, with Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk being the lead Republican on the bill.
“Bullying is not acceptable,” Casey said.
Cartoon Network, which is in almost 100 million homes and provides programming geared to kids 6 to 14 years old, last year broadcast a primetime documentary on bullying that was introduced by President Obama.
The show featured kids who’ve being bullied and kids who’ve been the bully. There have also been televised public service announcements and two CNN specials hosted by Anderson Cooper.
In addition, the network has partnered with Facebook for a bullying prevention pledge and provided educational resources at www.stopbullyingspeakup.com
Other partners include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Anti-Defamation League and Barnes & Noble books.
Also, the network plans to join the American Federation of Teachers in raising anti-bullying flags at more than 2,000 elementary and middle schools nationwide. Harding was the first, with three flags draped over the balcony of the auditorium, in addition to the one flying on the flagpole at the school entrance.
Stuart Snyder, the network’s president and chief operating officer, said a study shows that someone is bullied every seven minutes on a school playground in America.
“Eighty-five percent of the time,” he said, “nobody steps in to help.”
The good news, Snyder said, is that in more than half the cases when somebody does step in, the bullying stops. He asked all of the Harding children to stand and take the “Speak Up” pledge.
Casey, a former state auditor general and treasurer who was re-elected last year to his second Senate term, pointed to a survey showing that 60,000 American kids skip school every day because they are afraid of being bullied.
Casey and Snyder were joined at Harding by Aimee Carrero and Connor Del Rio, the 20-something actors who play Angie and Dante on Level Up, a live-action series on Cartoon Network.
When Snyder and the two actors chanted, “Stop bullying,” the students responded, “Speak up.”
“Bullying doesn’t have to be a part of growing up,” said Del Rio, who traveled to the school with Carrero from Hollywood. “We all have to speak up. You’ve gotta speak up when you see bullying happening.”
Others in attendance included state Rep. John Taylor and William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.
Harding seventh-grader Raina Mills, an honor roll student and student council president, introduced Casey.
Raina asked her fellow Harding Hawks to help kids who are being bullied, or to tell an adult they can trust.
“The most important thing that all of us can do,” she said, “is to be a friend to someone being bullied.”
Snyder said standing up to bullying is not about being a snitch.
“It’s about helping your fellow classmates.” ••