REEDSPORT — Let's stand up for our fellow students.

That's the anti-bullying message coming this year at Reedsport Community Charter School in art teacher Carol Colton's class.

Several youth in her course who competed in this year's poster contest spoke of their own experiences or what the contest meant to them.

Eighth-grader Jillian Hancock came in third place. She was born in Las Vegas and grew up partly in Logandale, Nev., which has a population of roughly 4,000. She and her family moved to Reedsport about three years ago.

Hancock decided to compete in the poster contest "because of my own experience with bullying."

"Bullying is kind of special to me because I know what it looks like," she said.

Colton's now in her fourth year teaching at RCCS.

"This is the third year I have had students create posters," the educator wrote in an email. "It was my idea after seeing bullying first hand at school, in the media and my own life."

"This year, two classes participated," Colton said. Those were seventh- and eighth-graders, consisting of 16 students plus a second class of ninth-graders. By comparison, one class of about 28 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders competed.

Colton walked around the class regarding yet another project her youth are working on, still smiling as she usually does and mentoring the students, showing them techniques.

"Students put a lot of thought into the message they wanted to say. They really tried to create quality work and this led to many thoughtful discussions on the topic of bullying during our brainstorming sessions and at table groups as they worked," the teacher wrote.

The posters will be displayed throughout RCCS until January.

Hancock claims she was bullied at both Grant M. Bowler Elementary and later at Highland Elementary.

"It just kind of went on. It was just a bunch of mean kids," she said, adding that she reported this to Principal Beckie Lupton and her own teachers.

Reached by phone, Lupton replied to the concerns Hancock, Corcoran and others have had.

"There are situations that do occur here at school," Lupton said. She said it's critically important for students and others to report those to a staff member or another adult "and the sooner the better." Principal Lupton said Highland youth are encouraged to share what happened with an adult staff member. If in turn they don't feel at ease discussing what happened with that Highland employee, then they should seek out another adult with whom they can speak. Lupton said "we want to work collaboratively."

Principal Lupton emphasized too that she's proud of all students who've come to her with bullying concerns.

"We need help from families as well," Lupton said.

Colton's message was essentially the same.

"Tell an adult about what is going on. Students can stand up to other students," Colton wrote.

Dean of Students James Hixenbaugh and RCCS Counselor Ted Homenick fully agreed with Colton and Lupton.

"I guess my advice or wish is always report it," Homenick said, referring to whether this is a student, staff member or parent/guardian, "...because if you don't report it, we can't help you."

Hixenbaugh said there was one incident that just festered, wasn't reported "and we didn't know about it."

"That happens quite a bit and nobody knows about it. Kind of a surprise," the dean of students said.

Homenick said then matters are then "brewing and brewing and brewing."

"Sometimes it's (the bullying) been going on since Highland," Hixenbaugh added.

"And to the point where it busts and when it busts, it busts big," Homenick emphasized. This may be because a bullied student fears retaliation or that she'll be considered a snitch.

Over time for Hancock the teasing has been mainly mental and verbal teasing, regardless of the school.

She and other students in Colton's class agree that youth need to support each other. When Hancock's felt bothered at RCCS, she's spoken with Dean of Students James Hixenbaugh and counselor Ted Homenick, saying "they were really good about it (the bullying)."

Fellow eighth-grader Jenna Corcoran also placed in third this year, saying that she decided to give the contest a shot "because at our school there actually is a lot of bullying and I don't want to see people get hurt."

Corcoran, who was born and raised in Reedsport, said of Highland and her experience there "so days I didn't like it at all. Other days it was fine."

"I feel like here it's a lot better," Corcoran said, saying that at Highland sometimes there was an issue of "people talking behind your back."

"I like it a lot better than Highland," she said.

Taking a break from her art work, Hancock spoke.

"I feel like this whole school needs a big assembly on bullying," Hancock said of RCCS.

Fellow teenager Haylee Lent, who's also in eighth grade, said "there's been some (assemblies) that talk (about) bits and pieces" of preventing bullying.

Corcoran said "with certain people, they get bullied a lot more." She said she tries to be outgoing to anyone.

Hixenbaugh and Homenick addressed the issues as well.

Counselor Homenick was intrigued by Hancock's proposal of a school-wide assembly solely for anti-bullying efforts.

Speaking on a Friday afternoon following lunch duty with Hixenbaugh, Homenick said "I think it's a good idea, if we find the right person (guest speaker)."

Then this speaker/s could "share what they've been through and how they dealt with it," the counselor observed.

He and Office Manager Sheri Wall have spoken of bringing in a guest speaker on bullying.

"I want somebody who's going to spin a positive message, but yeah we're open to it," the counselor said. "Because you'll get somebody in here and it'll be another lecture."

Hixenbaugh said he's quite open to an assembly devoted to preventing bullying.

"We have Officer (Matt) Smart in the building now and he does a really great job," the dean of students said.

Student Jenna Lindeman placed second this fall and from her take, she didn't think the level of bullying at the charter was bad.

"I think (it's) more friends bullying each other," Lindeman said, adding "well like because they're calling them names and stuff."

Of her award, Lindeman said, "it was kind of shocking because I didn't think it was that good."

Here's the list of the winners and others. Zipporah Gill placed with an honorable mention. Corcoran and Hancock tied for third. Jenna Lindeman came in second and Courtney Manicke captured first.

"The bullying that happens is under the radar where adults are not present, and kids know they won't get caught," Colton added. "Students need to speak up and bring it to an adults attention so it can be stopped. It is an epidemic everywhere."

This marks the second year the Coastal Douglas Arts and Business Alliance has donated prizes. Students won drawing art kits and a certificate, Colton said. She said Joe Coyne and Kathleen Miller judged posters both these years.

October marked national Anti-Bullying Month, which is when RCCS students worked on their posters and presented them.

The Umpqua Post Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or shelby.case@theworldlink.com.

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Umpqua Post Editor