Hamilton students dance for bully prevention

Bellmoore Elementary School students have recess flash mob for Bullying Awareness Week.
Grade six students Marlo Ostapiak, Jack Kennedy and Emma Vacheresse helped organize the flash mob. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

Students at Bellmoore Elementary School not only stood up to bullying Tuesday, they jumped, danced and sang to get their message across.

"We have to stand up to the bullies," said 11-year-old sixth grader Emma Vacheresse "It doesn't matter what you look like. It's what's inside that counts."

In the school's yard during morning recess, the Binbrook students performed a flash mob for Bullying Awareness Week.

Bellmoore's dance troupe, lead by teacher-librarian Jennifer Jean, choreographed the event. All the students at the school learned the moves in their classes, said Jean, but only the dance troupe and teachers knew when it was going to happen.

"We thought it would be something special to do as a whole school. We thought it'd be cool to unite all [students] and standing up as a family to speak out against bullying," Jean said.

With the suggestion from vice-principal Julie Anderson, the dance troupe chose to choreograph the flash mob to 'What Makes You Beautiful' by pop band One Direction.

"A lot of kids struggle with where they fit and where they belong, and don't really understand that they are all beautiful," she said. "The lyrics to the song talk about that and... start to understand that you are all beautiful."

Anderson, who has worked in education for the past 15 years, said bullying has changed for the worse since she began teaching.

"Awareness has changed because of the internet," she said. "It's increased bullying in the sense that it never goes away. Kids go home from school and they still have to deal with bullying on the Internet... But I also think it has increased awareness. Kids can go on and see what is happening to others."

Anderson said on a regular basis, she works with kids who feel they have been bullied. They want to know how to stand up for himself or herself or a friend.

Lori Zivanovich, Hamilton police community liaison officer, is visiting all the classes at Bellmoore this week to give students strategies on how to deal with bullying, and who to go to if it happens.

Her message seems to be getting across. Zivanovich said students often stop her in the hallways looking for advice.

"Students have seen me around the school before so they will come up and try to figure out the best approach with that situation," she said.

The student organizers hope the take-away message from the flash mob is deeper.

"That everyone is the same in their own way and you have to treat them with respect," said Jack Kennedy, 11.

At an assembly after the dance, principal Greg Moore asked how many students had fun during the flash mob. Just about every student raised his or her hand.

Teachers like Jean know the school-wide dancing and singing will allow the anti-bullying message to have a lasting impression on students.

"These are the moments they remember," she said.