Bullying is not harmless teasing or adolescent banter. It’s the ongoing victimization of a person or group of people and it can lead to tragic consequences. That’s exactly why a group of local Girl Scouts decided to tackle this topic head-on.
They collaborated on a project to write, direct and produce a series of Bully Buster YouTube videos to be shown in Eden Prairie schools. They also promoted a presentation of the movie, Bully, for 200 viewers at AMC Theaters, sponsored by Eden Prairie Schools and the Eden Prairie Disability Awareness Committee. Many hours of dedication and work has earned these scouts the Girl Scout Silver Award, the second highest award a Girl Scout can earn.
Star Bandy, Rachelle Johnson, Kaitlyn Pond and Ellie Thomas have seen first hand how bullying can be hurtful. Together, these girls wanted to present ways to educate their peers about how to respond to bullying. As they began their research, Pond was shocked at how many kids participate in bullying behavior and don’t believe that they are being bullies. “Kids are sarcastic and cruel all of the time,” she says. “But because they don’t actually touch the victim, they believe that it’s okay. But it’s not.”
Bandy was not so shocked at the prevalence of bullying at school. She’s been a victim of scenarios similar to the ones that she scripted for the bully buster videos. “I’ve had peanut butter and jelly speared on my desk chair when I wasn’t looking,” she says. “And once, during a swimming unit in gym, a mean girl took my shampoo, conditioner and hairbrush from the locker room and threw them into the trash. Being bullied was terrible.”
“What really gets to me are the rumors,” adds Pond. “It bugs me when people say hurtful things about my friends that I know are untrue.”
“These are the reasons why we wanted to make the bully buster videos,” Thomas says. “We wanted to give examples of how to handle bullies. To get kids to tell a responsible adult. And to encourage bystanders to speak up for other people.”
Rachelle’s mom, Terri Johnson first saw the movie, Bully, with the Eden Prairie Disability Awareness Committee. “The film left us emotional,” Terri Johnson says. “Hosting a screening of this film became part of the girls' scout project. But I knew that they should include an opportunity for people to discuss what they experienced during the movie. A panel discussion afterward and speaker presentation later on were offered to give parents information to help their children deal with bullying. Because bullying can lead to kids missing school, not participating in activities, even considering suicide in extreme cases. The child in the movie had hit a breaking point. We want to avoid that by not tolerating bullying and encouraging students to speak up for change.”
These four Girl Scouts have spoken. And they haven’t stopped. In addition to the movie presentation, panel discussion and the production of the YouTube videos, they’ve packed race bags, created cheer signs and helped with carnival games for the PACER Center’s Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying. Thomas wrote an article for the Eden Prairie newspaper detailing a kid’s perspective on bullying. And all of the girls embraced events of Unity Day sponsored by the Eden Prairie Disability Awareness Committee. Terri Johnson says that students with disabilities or who are homosexual are most often the victims of bullying. But it can happen to anyone.
Pond once heard of a grownup who still remembers the pain of being bullied when he was young. “The person doing the bullying forgets,” says Terri Johnson. “But the victim remembers forever.”
These Girl Scouts will surely remember the good that they’ve done, the bonds they’ve made with each other, the knowledge they’ve gained and the great experience they’ve had working on this project. “I’m happy we got to work on this,” Bandy says. “I like the idea of making kids feel better about themselves and having a better life. Like me.”
To view videos that the Girl Scouts Bully Busters have produced, check out their YouTube channel.