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Kelly Smith, Published December 09 2009

Fargo students aim to curb bullying

After constant bullying from his peers last year, a Fargo sixth-grader at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School asked student leaders for help.

“He just couldn’t take it anymore,” said Karen Moe, now a ninth-grader at Fargo South Campus II. “We knew we could make a difference because people listen to us.”

The teens have done more, though, than make a difference for the sixth-grader and other students at their school. They’re now broadcasting their message to schools across North Dakota.

Last year, the students created a three-minute anti-bullying video, “Sticks and Stones,” with the help of teacher Beth Ekre. This year, it’s been shown at their school twice and in schools in at least six other North Dakota school districts that heard about the teen-led, teen-targeted video.

For this young YouTube generation, the serious message comes across a lot stronger via video, Ekre said. Plus, the video’s message comes straight from the teens, not teachers.

“We found these aren’t as effective as when students take it and say ‘not in my school,’ ” Ekre said of staff-related initiatives to stop bullying.

Students are now looking to take the message a step further by exploring the idea of creating a mentoring group that would bring students together to address how to make school a safer place.

School staff surveyed Carl Ben sixth-graders this fall; 13 percent said they’ve been bullied.

Students want to reduce the statistic mon culture of teasing and name-calling.

“In middle school, it’s kind of a pecking order – ‘oh I’m cooler than you,’ ” said eighth-grader Dillon Hebert.

“Every one of us has been teased at one time,” Moe added. “You’re supposed to want to come to school.”

Ekre said the issue of bullying shouldn’t be understated by adults.

“Repeated bullying can cause people to do disastrous things,” she said of issues like depression and suicide: “We know there’s a correlation (with repeated bullying).”

By creating awareness about bullying, the teens hope they can help prevent some of their peers from picking on one another.

“People say you can’t stop bullying and it’s probably true; you can’t stop it 100 percent,” eighth-grader Cody Hassler said. “We know a bullying video won’t change the climate, but we know it can help.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515