The walkers cheered. They chanted. They held up signs that said "Be a Defender!" and "Bullying is not cool!"
Students and teachers at Lions Park Elementary School in Mount Prospect hit the pavement Wednesday to speak out against bullying. The walk was part of the first Stand Up to Bullying Week going on at all schools in Mount Prospect Elementary District 57.
"It went exactly as we hoped," Lions Park Principal Kristine Gritzmacher said. "It was a peaceful, positive walk that served as a reminder that we can all do something to stop bullying."
Loren Goodman was part of a small group of parents who stood outside Lions Park to support the festive and animated students as they walked. Her two daughters are in second and fourth grades at the school.
"I'm so glad they're teaching the kids about bullying and its effects," Goodman said. "My daughters don't think it's an issue right now, but it is."
All District 57 schools have had daily activities planned for Stand Up to Bullying Week, which runs through Friday. At Fairview Elementary, for example, students contributed to a "Say No to Bullying" mural in the school foyer. At Westbrook School for Young Learners, students participated in an assembly related to the issue. Lincoln Middle School students will wear white Friday to show their desire to "white out bullying."
The schools also have prepared videos to raise awareness of the issue in the larger District 57 community.
This week's activities stem from the district's implementation of the nationally recognized Olweus Bullying Prevention Program at the start of the school year. The Olweus program centers on four key rules students will learn and follow this year:
• We will not bully others.
• We will try to help students who are bullied.
• We will try to include students who are left out.
• If we know that someone is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.
"It's a very child-centered program and it's something we could easily weave into the things we were already doing," Superintendent Elaine Aumiller said. "We've gotten some wonderful feedback so far."
Gritzmacher said she likes that the Olweus program emphasizes that each individual person has the ability, and the responsibility, to do something about bullying. She also likes the program's insistence that people not be labeled as "bullies."
"Instead, the program says we should talk about a person 'engaging in bullying behavior.' It's a tough rule to follow, but I think it's important. Putting labels on people is easy, but it usually doesn't do much good in the long run," she said.