Third graders at Parley's Park Elementary School got a lesson in the evils of bullying Friday when self-published author Mike Henderson and Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter stopped by for a visit.
Henderson gave the class the first copies of his children's book "How the Stars Were Made," a book that addresses bullying, which the class read aloud. Carpenter stopped by to talk to the class as well to discuss what bullying looks like and how to prevent it.
"When I went to high school, I was 13 years old and I was bullied my first year," Henderson said. "It was the same as it is now. A bully is a bully."
"If I can be doing this in the schools, this is really important to me," he added. "Even if I never made a dime from this book, getting it into the schools, to kids, that is what I want to do."
The book, which is for sale online, uses a Native American legend to discuss the dangers of bullying and the consequences.
After the talk, students came up to thank Henderson for the book, murmuring the talking points from the anti-bullying message to each other.
"Bullying is not a good idea. It can hurt people feelings," said third grader Kat Moss. "It's never a good idea."
Fellow classmate Tanner Kraft added to her thought.
"Today was fun," he said, " and bullying is mean. It's not nice because it can make people feel bad.
The classroom discussion is part of a continuing effort among Park City School District employees to target elementary school students in the district-wide anti-bullying campaign, an effort that began in the middle schools and high school. The Anti-Bullying Coalition formed earlier this year, starting at Treasure Mountain Middle School and quickly spreading to other secondary schools in Park City. The coalition is a community-wide program aimed to stop bullying both in and out of schools and is composed of schools, students and community partners such as the local police department.
"Change has to start at this level," Carpenter said. "If you have the opportunity to address issues early on we can be more effective."
"Our role is to protect children, any time we can be an advocate and create a positive relationship of trust with young kids in community, we try to do that," he added. "They know we are there for them, if something goes wrong they can reach out and know we are there to help."
Park City Elementary school counselors presented a Bully Prevention Parent Forum last week as well, in addition to Park City School District Psychologist Ben Springer offering a lecture to parents of elementary school students in Salt Lake City. The events served as an opportunity for parents of younger students to join in the Anti-Bullying Coalition and elementary counselors, administrators and members of the coalition.
"We want to involving parents in bullying prevention programs," Springer said. "Programs like this are wonderful in raising awareness, but we have a long ways to go before we reduce the occurrence of bullying behavior. Early intervention has strong evidence to support the idea that the earlier you discussion an issue, the more effective the training is. Anything that provides momentum to a movement, multimedia or books, it is powerful."