MOREHEAD CITY — Morehead City Elementary School students spent Halloween learning how to stand up to something that can be scary: bullying.
Former Harlem Globetrotter and Morehead City resident Johnny Thomas delivered an anti-bullying message based on the acronym RISE. The letters stand for “Relax, Imagine, Stand Up and Empathize.”
Mr. Thomas, now a deputy with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department and operator of Rising Pros Training, attended Morehead City Elementary, Morehead City Middle and West Carteret High School.
He told students, during the program in the Boys & Girls Club gym next to the school, that he remembers being bullied as a child.
“When I lived in Morehead City, I dealt with bullying,” he said. “It doesn’t feel good to be picked on.”
Using fun activities, including a few interactive basketball stunts, Mr. Thomas taught students how to handle a bullying situation.
“When you encounter a bully, you relax,” he said. “They want you to be upset. If you need to, go and get an adult you trust.”
He also encouraged students to check on fellow students who seem distressed.
Next, using the word “imagine,” Mr. Thomas exhorted students to befriend those who are bullied and those who bully.
“Imagine how they feel. I can tell you that at some point all of you will experience bullying. Be a friend. If someone is bullying, you may not know what’s happening in their life. Try to figure out why they are bullying.”
He illustrated the point by sharing a bullying experience he went through as a child.
“When he picked on me I asked him if he was OK. He said no and we talked. Then we became friends and we used to play basketball together,” he said.
Mr. Thomas next used the term “Stand up.”
“You can stand up to a bully and walk away,” he said.
Finally, he encouraged students to empathize with those being bullied.
“I’m going to put myself in your shoes and try to understand how you’re feeling,” he said.
Mr. Thomas added that it’s important to care for others.
“Help others around you and help other kids feel good,” he said. “Treat others like you treat yourself.”
Students said they enjoyed the program.
“I liked that he told us to stand up for people who are getting bullied,” fourth-grader Emi Norris said.
Fifth-grader Angella Noll agreed.
“It was very good. I liked how he talked to us about bullying and how people feel when they get bullied,” Angella said.
Morehead City Elementary School Principal Anna Brooks said the school constantly tries to send an anti-bullying message to students by encouraging them to be kind.
“Bullying is a major issue among students, not just here, but on social media,” Ms. Brooks said. “Bullying has taken on a new form with social media. The bullying may not actually happen at school, but it comes into the classroom the next day.”
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.