Students from 14 different Miami-Dade elementary schools attended The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment’s “Elementary School Student Conference on Cyber-bullying Prevention” Dec. 10 to learn cyber-bullying tactics and to prevent them.
The 2015 conference continued prevention sessions begun in 2003 for nine to 10-year-olds from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, produced in partnership with Palmetto Feeder Pattern and invited schools.
Palmetto Elementary School Counselor Julie Astuto, M.Ed. and Melissa Institute Education Director Trish Ramsay, M.A., facilitated the event with assistance from Dr. Alma Dean of Perrine Academy of Arts, Susan Sirota from Coral Reef Elementary School and Rosanna Timmons at Snapper Creek Elementary School.
The 160 fourth and fifth graders sat with their counselors around tables at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Pinecrest, spending the morning exploring ways to “Promote Relationships and Prevent Social Media Bullying.”
Following lunch and a question and answer session with their counselors, students designed posters, put together cheers and performed skits to demonstrate ways of handling electronic aggression.
Margot Palma, 10, a fifth-grader from Palmetto Elementary, participated in making a skit that she said was about ‘how not to bully.’
“If you put yourself in someone’s shoes, you wouldn’t like to be bullied, so we tried to act that out,” she said. Margot and her peers define a bully as “someone who’s rude to you day after day, and not just once.”
Research shows that bullying is a major contributing factor in incidents of school violence. Ms. Ramsay and Ms. Astuto encouraged students and participating counselors to talk about positive strategies to deal with increasing problems in schools since children are exposed to vivid images of aggression in movies, video games and on tv shows and websites.
“There’s physical bullying, cyber-bullying — a lot of things — things you can do all your life and not just when you’re little,” said Margot. “But when you tell a bunch of people, they pass it on. No bullying!”