LANDOVER, MARYLAND - Bullying is a serious concern in many U.S. schools, which is why education officials just outside the nation's capital challenged young students to respond to the issue with artwork and poetry. in a contest called Diverse Expressions.
All the entries for the Diverse Expressions contest were compiled in a booklet and distributed to elementary school students across Prince George's County, Maryland.
William Paca Elementary school in Landover, Maryland, is home to several of the top contest winners, including Marquette Dunbar, 11, who expressed how he feels about bullying by putting pen to paper.
Inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement, he imagined people marching, holding signs with messages against bullying, like 'Don't be a bully', 'We just want peace and joy' and 'Harmony could be between us.'
Marquette won first prize in the art category. He says his picture expresses a painful personal experience as a victim of bullying.
“The common bullying [form] for me is name calling," he said. "I just felt annoyed and disoriented because I'm just confused of how I get bullied and I didn't do anything.”
Cameron Ross, 8, is second grader. Her drawing took third place in the same category.
“The picture is about a girl who is being bullied by this boy," she said. "He’s calling her ‘ugly, ugly.’ This [other] girl is saying, ‘This is not cool. I’m going to prevent her from being bullied.' She’s telling a responsible adult.’”
Cameron says the girl she drew is so sad to be called ugly that she cries.
Neresha Miller, an 11-year-old fifth grader spoke up with a poem entitled, Speak Up About Bullying:
Bullying is a bad way to express yourself.
It only makes you as short as an elf.
Making others hurt or sad
Should not make you feel glad.
Bullying can come in many different forms;
mentally emotionally, cyber all ctrate storms.
If you see someone being bullied, never leave it alone,
because you'll never know, you might save a bone.
Instead of being a bully on life's road,
use the golden rule as your code.
Treat others the way you want to be treated
Because kindness is always needed.
Miller's poem came in second place in the poetry category.
“I think we should do more to stop bullying, more like we should talk to the people who have been bullied on how they should think about the person who is bullying them,” she said.
Isis Garvin, 11, was awarded third prize for Bullying Must Be Stopped:
Bullying is bad,
It's not good.
If I could stop it,
I surely would.
No one should have
to live in fear.
No one should have
to shed not another tear.
There is too much
fighting, lying and
too many people dying.
It's time to take a stand,
gran you neighbors hand.
You see something, say something.
Bullying must be stopped!!!”
Isis hopes her words would make bullies understand how their victims feel.
“I don’t really know how a bully can do this to other people because it’s a bad thing," she said. "It’s really bad.”
Their principal, Dorothy Clowers, says there were several reasons she and her teachers encouraged their students to take part in the contest.
“Number one, we were studying poetry," she said. "Number two, bullying is so big. Number three, we had several incidents with bullying in our community that came to our school. So we just seized the opportunity to move on with this initiative."
She says it was a valuable learning experience for both students and teachers.
“To give the students an opportunity to express themselves, and [for] other students [to] hear about how hurtful bullying is, is great,” Clowers said. “My teachers also, once they heard about bullying, they got on it right away because we know that bullying can lead to death.”
Fifth grade teacher Kevin White often talks about bullying with his students, to prevent it from becoming a problem in his classroom.
“It keeps them from concentrating and it’s kind of just disturbing the flow of the classroom, if we don’t catch it in time. I think parents should talk to their children about bullying," White said. "We should let students know they can come to you anytime and talk about bullying.”
He says using art and poetry can help raise awareness about bullying since many kids are more comfortable expressing their feelings through rhymed words and colored pencils.