The Wilkinsburg School District’s anti-bullying rally on Sept. 9 began on a positive note with all the glee of a sports pep rally. The school’s marching band played and students in the band’s drumline marched down the aisles of the Wilkinsburg High School auditorium as cheerleaders pranced in front of the stage.
However, shortly after the Wilkinsburg students had finished cheering in favor of their Tiger’s football team, many of those same students could be heard booing a representative from the Wilkinsburg police department and their very own district superintendent.
“We have a lot of people who have friends and family who have been taken away and put in prison. These authority figures are frowned upon out in the streets,” said senior Jordan Howard, when asked about the reaction of his peers. “I may not agree with it, but I understand it.”
Howard and his teammates on the basketball and football teams presented skits showing how students should respond when they or their peers are being bullied. The solution illustrated in the skits and throughout the rally was universal—“See Something Say Something.”
“I think this rally was really important because we have a lot of people who are being bullied not just in school but out of school,” Howard said. “We need to translate what we’re doing here with anti-bullying to what’s happening in the streets.”
The rally’s theme, “See Something Say Something.” is part of an overall district effort to increase student participation in the fight against bullying. The district is working to reverse the attitude among many students who believe helping a fellow student who is being bullied is considered snitching, an indication of how street culture has infiltrated the schools.
“A lot of things go unnoticed. It’s not necessarily snitching, but we have to look out for one another. We’re old enough to know better,” said senior Sarah Jackson. “When someone continues to be bullied by someone else, they turn to gangs because that’s where they feel protected.”
Like many of her peers Jackson has seen first hand how bullying in school can lead to more severe consequences. Through a tearful rendition of her award winning poem, the writer, musician, and all around model student, illustrated that violence in the community can impact anyone.
Despite the sometimes-hostile “no-snitching “ mentality illustrated by several students at the rally, a recent survey of students in the district found that almost 70 percent of students feel empathy for students who are bullied.
“The theme of our district this year is changing the way we do business,” said superintendent Archie Perrin. “‘See Something Say Something’ is not just a phrase. If you can feel safe nowhere else, you should feel safe in school.”
The same survey found that 70 percent of students said they would not join in if they see one students being bullied by other students. However, only 35 percent said they would try to help a student being bullied.
“I’ve walked these same hallways and the same streets you’ve walked. Bullying starts at home,” said Elliot Lightfoot. “When you start talking about bullying, you start talking about kids who are at home and their home life might not be right. You never know what you do to someone when you’re demeaning someone.”
WTAE anchor Andrew Stockey and WPXI anchor Brittny McGraw served as master and mistress of ceremonies for the rally organized by Monique Brown, the district’s developmental advisor.