ABCs of a peaceful school

Sunday, February 5, 2012
Alma Schrader counselor Julia Unnerstall leads, from left, Samuel Reazer, Kareem Shaheen, Jack Maxton and McKensi Williams in their anti-bullying group the ABC Club. (Laura Simon)

Alma Schader Elementary is taking a stand against bullying with its Anti-Bullying Club, formed by five second-graders in fall 2010.

"We saw a lot of bullying outside, and we wanted to stop it," said Grace Sanders, an original member who's now in third grade.

She saw a girl push another student, and she also saw kids being excluded from games. She and classmates Jack Maxton, Sammy Reazer, Kareem Shaheen and McKensi Williams met with guidance counselor Julia Unnerstall to find out what they could do about bullying in their school.

The group began brainstorming, which has had a domino effect of ideas since then, Unnerstall said.

The club's goal is to make sure that bullying is not an issue at Alma Schrader.

"We really promote here that we are a family," Unnerstall said. "If you go to school here, then you have a family. The school is your family, and families take care of each other."

The ABC charter members, now in third grade, spend two or three recesses each week working on club business in Unnerstall's office. They held a business meeting to design and order T-shirts, which they now sell for $5 and are popular to wear on school spirit days.

Alma Schrader Elementary counselor Julia Unnerstall leads Kareem Shaheen and Grace Sanders in their anti-bullying group the ABC Club. (Laura Simon)

They wrote an anti-bullying song, with help from music teacher Rebecca Gentry, and every Alma Schrader student has memorized it. They're even working on a book about how to identify and address bullying. Each book will have a membership card for students to tear out and sign, making their anti-bullying commitment official. The book is still in its storyboard stage in Unnerstall's office, but the club hopes to give a copy to every student in school. They're already setting up appointments to read the book in teachers' classrooms.

"Right now we're focusing on our book, but we would like to work on more things to stop bullying," Sanders said, citing ideas like increasing awareness about the club, boosting membership, putting on skits and expanding to other schools.

"I don't think it's really work. I think it's just trying to make our school better," McKensi Williams said. "We really made a difference in the school years I've been here. I've been here for kindergarten, first grade and second grade, and there's not that much bullying now."

Example of an ABC Club membership card given to kids at Alma Scharder Elementary School. (Laura Simon)

The only requirement for ABC members is that they not bully.

"They can be a member by showing their membership on the playground -- by including others, by helping each other when they see bullying and to take care of each other like a family should," Unnerstall said.

In November, the club was recognized by the Cape Girardeau Public School Board for earning a national award from the Character Education Partnership.

"Who would have thought that a group of second-graders would have that impact?" Unnerstall said.

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