Alice Carlson takes the reins on bullying

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Local elementary school Alice Carlson has taken steps against bullying and self-harm.

“Disrespect- it’s not okay. Different is not better or worse- it’s just different” is the phrase behind the “It’s Not Okay” campaign.

INOK was implemented by Fort Worth Independent School District and focuses on encouraging students to make healthy decisions concerning bullying, self -harm and other choices that could affect students or their peers.

“The school teaches the students to be nice and include everyone,” Luz Rangel, a parent of two Alice Carlson students, said. “If the teachers hear anything about bullying they get involved with the parents so it can stop.”

Rangel said she honestly doesn’t see any bullying at Alice Carlson.

FWISD guidance and counseling director Kathryn Everest said bullying and being mean are not the same thing. She defined bullying as persistent, pervasive, severe, and often targeted at the same victim.

Everest said FWISD’s main focus is to change the sanctions of disrespect that children see as the norm.

“Making fun is the social norm,” she said. “Kids set the social norms. I didn’t sanction sagging pants or thick eyebrows, the kids did.”

Bullying and being mean are effects that are caused by disrespect, Everest said.

“Disrespect is the underpinning foundation that causes these problems,” she said.

According to the FWISD website, students can report acts of bullying to any school employee either verbally or written without fear of retaliation. Students can also click the friends for life link on the website as well as text, email, or call in reports of disrespect anonymously.

Everest said INOK began four years ago as the result of FWISD students who were ready to take charge against prominent issues they saw in their local high schools, such as sexual harassment, disrespect, suicide and violence.

“The students realized that by high school, the problems were too difficult to change,” she said. “We realized we needed to begin at an earlier age.”

INOK took off in FWISD elementary, middle school, and high schools by encouraging students, parents, and teachers to sign a pledge card which symbolized a promise to take a stand against disrespect and teach students to respect themselves as well as others.

Several campuses have taken the pledge along with other pledges and partnered with AT&T to support “It can wait” because “texting and driving: it’s not okay!”

Other students have had the opportunity to partner with singer Kelly Clarkson and State Farm Insurance for the Celebrate My Drive campaign that focused on “reckless driving: it’s not okay!”

Everest said the INOK campaign has seen a dramatic decrease in bullying.

“Students are learning that disrespecting themselves and others is not OK,” she said.

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