Middle School's Anti-Bullying Crusader

On October 20, instead of their usual uniform tops, nearly every student in Class 5 came to school wearing blue, the official bullying-prevention color. After talking about the consequences of bullying in Homeroom, the students made a conscious choice to join together to raise awareness around this important issue. Their “blue shirt day” was a powerful experience the girls won’t soon forget.

How the students learned about bullying prevention is a remarkable story in itself.

Riding in a taxi, Class 5 student Katherine Yoseloff noticed a public service announcement playing on the taxi’s TV screen. The video featured historic figures hurling antiquated insults at modern high-school students, who looked a bit perplexed. The clever and effective PSA, presented by the national organization Stomp Out Bullying, ended with the tagline “Together, let’s make bullying a thing of the past.”

Inspired by the taxi PSA, Katherine had an idea. “I thought it would be cool to see our school as a sea of blue,” she recalled. So a few days later, when she found herself not particularly busy one Saturday, she decided to transform her thoughts about bullying into a compact, colorful booklet. On the front, in red and yellow marker, she wrote the urgent words: Let’s Stop Bullying. A paper cutout of a blue shirt was affixed to the right side; Stomp Out Bullying’s website (www.stompoutbullying.org) was spelled out along the bottom.

Inside her booklet, Katherine shared her thoughts about bullying and the positive efforts of Stomp Out Bullying, which she researched to find out more. In her neat handwriting, she expressed her desire to help prevent bullies from damaging children’s chances to enjoy a safe and supportive school experience. “As a fifth grader at Chapin,” she wrote, “I haven’t seen [bullying] happen before, but I know it’s a problem and year after year, kids drop out of schools because of bullies and everyone deserves an education.”

After finishing the booklet, Katherine decided her next step was to show it to Middle School Head Mary Rafferty and talk to her about her “blue shirt” proposal. She took the initiative to set up an appointment, but was a little apprehensive about meeting with Ms. Rafferty by herself, so she asked a friend to accompany her to the Middle School Office. The visit went well and led to more meetings with Ms. Rafferty helping Katherine consider different possibilities for her bullying-prevention plan. “It was beautiful to see her confidence grow,” Ms. Rafferty said.

“It was Ms. Rafferty’s idea to present to my grade,” remarked Katherine, who carefully considered her suggestion before agreeing. Ms. Rafferty also helped pin down a date in October – which is national bullying prevention month – on which Class 5 could wear their blue shirts.

Buoyed by her encouraging meetings with Ms. Rafferty, Katherine got busy creating a compelling Power Point presentation about bullying. To make her feel more comfortable, she chose Humanities teacher Margaret George’s familiar classroom in which to speak to her class instead of a larger space. Still, she was nervous. “I just started talking, and I had bullet points, which were helpful,” she said.

If she felt anxious, she didn’t show it. For 30 captivating minutes, Katherine spoke with authority and compassion about a topic of deep importance to her. “Her delivery was incredible,” praised Ms. Rafferty. “Her confidence grew enormously. And her classmates were impressed and appreciative. They asked questions and were genuinely interested in what she had to say.”

Soon, Class 4 learned of Katherine’s terrific presentation. Ms. Rafferty asked if she would give a repeat performance to these students. Once again, Katherine succeeded in her quest to inform her peers about bullying and ways to prevent it.

Through her initiative, imagination and perseverance, Katherine Yoseloff is poised to change the world, beginning with her bullying-prevention campaign and Class 5’s sea of blue shirts. Indeed, she is an outstanding example of Chapin’s motto “Brave for Others, Brave for Self.”

“If we can put a stop to bullying now, it takes away the chances of it happening as you get older,” she stated. “I want to encourage people to be kind to each other.”

Click HERE to view photos from Blue Shirt Day!