When Jim Williams talks about bullying, he speaks with a voice young people seem to understand.
"I was bullied a lot in middle school, and I never told my parents," said Williams, a motivational speaker from Nashville, Tenn. He lectures now to young students about coping with school-yard taunting.
Demand for Williams' message is increasing, as local educators try to stave off bullying in their schools. Williams, the owner of Jim Williams Consulting, LLC, is touring several schools in Henry County this winter. "It's all about kids," he said. "It's all about kids feeling better about who they are. Children will make better decisions, if they feel better about themselves, first."
Williams has made several stops at Luella Elementary School. His visits are an attempt by Luella Principal Lois Wolfe to compliment her school's existing anti-bullying programs.
He spoke to the school's third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders in January and will return to the school in March. "We have a school-wide, proactive, discipline plan," Wolfe said. "And we've had this in place for a few years at our school. Bullying prevention is one component of the comprehensive plan."
Wolfe said Williams lectures students about being responsible and respectful citizens, and they, in turn, learn to oppose bullies and not become bullies themselves.
She said the school couples its programs Parenting with Love and Logic, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and the Peaceful School Bus Program with Williams' visits, to reach the entire school community.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is designed to deter bullying among students, by helping teach students, teachers, and other school staff members to identify bullying, Wolfe said. "We believe that everyone at school must feel safe," she said. "So, we want our children to be well-informed about the reason they should not bully, and why they should have self-control and respect."
The Parenting with Love and Logic program, she added, was developed to offer parents guidance and techniques in teaching their children about respect and responsibility. The Peaceful School Bus Program offers training to school bus drivers and school staff members to help them handle discipline issues on buses. "I think all these pieces work together," Wolfe said. "Everybody comes together in our community, and that makes a difference. We have seen a decrease in discipline referrals."
Wolfe said the school has scheduled assemblies for Jim Williams in March. He is scheduled to speak to students at East Lake Elementary School and Union Grove Middle School, Feb. 23 and 24, respectively.
Williams speaks primarily to third-through-eighth-graders. His assemblies are typically 90 minutes long, and involve role playing to demonstrate different scenarios in which bullying takes place. "There are three types of bullying physical, social, and verbal bullying," he said. "The bullying we see a lot which is the social bullying is about control and power.
"We cover the concept of not being a bystander when people are being bullied," he said. "It's easy to tell the kids to accept each other, but it's a different thing to show them how to do it. We also talk about the importance of helping our children become resilient, and helping them learn from their mistakes, because they can grow from those experiences."
Williams said parents, too, should have open communications lines with their children. "Parents need to have good, effective communications with their kids," he said. "It's very hard for kids to come home and tell their parents they're being bullied."
Principal Wolfe said bullying programs are among the top initiatives at the school, geared toward developing successful men and women. "Our children will grow up to be those positive citizens," she said. "We want our children to learn at a very young age that their actions impact others, as well as affect themselves. We want them to learn how to respect others' differences, and how to develop those character-education traits early on. You can't wait."
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