The battle against bullying seems to never end. As another weapon in its arsenal in recent years, the school district has marked Acts of Kindness Week, a positive approach to the problem. This year, Chocachatti Elementary School had activities every day to encourage its students to be kinder.
This angle to the problem is a way to help children resolve conflict.
"What I see is that kids begin to recognize and prevent situations before bullying can start," said school counselor Jennifer Lawson. Students are also learning to recognize that when a difficult situation occurs, they can be equipped to deal with it. They learn "how being kind helps our society," she said.
During the week, students school-wide were asked to write on paper turkey feathers something related to kindness for which they were thankful. The feathers were posted in the cafeteria around a turkey body, creating a multi-feathered big bird representing kindness.
The student council was instrumental in helping Lawson put together a week's worth of activities.
Monday, Giving Thanks for Kindness Day, was when the children wrote on the paper feathers.
Wednesday, Kindness Connection Day, was slated for decorating posters to promote kindness. Those were hung around the school.
Friday was Team Spirit Day. Students and staffers were encouraged to dress in school colors to celebrate solidarity.
All week long, teachers handed out pencils to children they caught doing acts of kindness. Also during the week, children brought in food and toys for a local food bank and Toys for Tots.
The Chocachatti newspaper focused on kindness, as did the Chocachatti News Network during morning broadcasts. The school's MicroSociety cafe put kindness quotes on its cups.
Groups were also encouraged to create word collages of nice things to say to one another.
The student government president, fourth-grader Selena Rastatter, 9, suggested that Acts of Kindness Week may be helping.
"Last year, kids were being mean to each other," she said. "They thought boys and girls couldn't be friends, but this year they're playing together."
Said third-grader Katie Haber, 9, the student government vice president: "I think it's important to be kind to each other — treat others like you want to be treated. I really don't like to see people fight."
"If you're kind to people, they'll have a better day," she said.
Fifth-grader Marissa Ames, 10, is Chocachatti Elementary's Hernando County School Board student representative.
"I think people should be kind to each other, because if you're kind, they'll spread it on," she said.
She said she sees good things happening in her classroom.
"My class works together very nicely," she said.
Katie gave an example of how students should react when faced with a tense situation.
"When I see someone getting bullied, I'll try to stop it," she said. "And if they don't, I'll get an adult."
Rounding out the student government officers are treasurer Riley Bradley and secretary Gianna Piscelli, both fifth-graders.
One final note from Katie: "All I've got to say is stop bullying."