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PAWS; Group at Fort Scott Middle School is tackling issue of bullying head-on

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From left: John Emmerson, eighth grade, Sammie Poyner, eighth grade, Jocie Allen, sixth grade, Jonathan Daniels, sixth grade, Hallie Grillot, sixth grade, and Eddie Hall, eighth grade, are six of the 12 members of PAWS
(Positive Action with Students), an anti-bullying group at Fort Scott Middle School.(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
A handful of students at Fort Scott Middle School is tackling the issue of bullying as part of a group called PAWS (Positive Action with Students).

The group was formed in September after Principal Danny Brown spoke with counselor Tammy Claypool and some of the kids about what they might do to address the bullying issue in the schools.

"We knew we wanted to work on things to decrease bullying," Brown said. "We always look at things we can do to improve and that is one of the areas we wanted to look at and improve on."

So Brown went about enlisting the help of some of his staff, including Assistant Principal B.J. Pruitt.

"Mr. Brown came to me and asked for helpers and someone that could sit in on meetings and I was more than willing to take the time to do that," Pruitt said. "This group really gives the students a voice and helps us kind of see what's going on in the school. If they see things, it gives them an opportunity to come talk to us in a setting that is with other students, so they can feel safe and they know that maybe all these other students feel the same thing as well. We can discuss different topics and different issues that are going on."

Pruitt is well aware of the impact groups like this can have during a student's formative years.

"It provides kind of a safe haven for kids to get through things like this," Pruitt said. "I think it's natural that bullying types of behaviors and name-calling are probably worse at this age than any other age and I think this gives them an outlet, or avenue, to help us see some of that."

"It helps us to help them," Claypool said.

Pruitt said students involved in the group are eager to create change, often asking him when they can have their next meeting. He said the group usually meets a couple times a month and has called meetings for special projects.

"A couple of them had gotten together and were brainstorming ideas and decided to come up with a fundraiser for a student that is going through some health issues," Pruitt said. "They wanted to pitch an idea to us and see what we could do with that."

Claypool, who penned the acronym PAWS, said she has had students approach her with ideas as well.

They asked her about the idea of using an anonymous form to submit ideas and report any problems they might see.

"The kids' input is so important on those kind of things, " Brown said.

The 12-member group consists of two boys and two girls from each grade at FSMS.

"We chose kids we felt like were leaders among different, varied groups within the school," Brown said.

Pruitt said the students have been important in pinpointing where some bullying activities might be taking place.

Brown said he has noticed a decrease in conflicts this year, but can't say it's specifically because of the group.

"I can say we have had less of those kind of problems," Brown said.

Claypool said they discuss with the student leaders how to identify bullying, report it and how to respond when they see someone being bullied, or if they are being bullied themselves.

"Sometimes, to catch them off guard, we tell the student to say, 'thank you for the compliment.' It catches them off guard and they sometimes just walk off," Claypool said.

Eighth-grader Eddie Hall said PAWS is important because it works to reduce bullying in his school and members of the group can help pinpoint where and when bullying takes place.

"If it happens more after lunch, then you can have more people looking for it after lunch," Hall said.

Eighth-grader John Emmerson said even making fun of someone when joking may be bullying.

"They may not take it as a joke," Emmerson said.

He also said that one of the ways he can help stop bullying is to be a good leader.

Sixth-grader Hallie Grilliot also has an idea to help stop bullying.

"When you see it, tell an adult," Grilliot said.

Brown said the students also have helped with Red Ribbon Week, which reminds kids to stay drug-free, and The Beacon Food Drive.

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