Anti-bullying lesson at Belle Heth encourages kids to be ‘unafraid’
RADFORD — Hundreds of students at Belle Heth Elementary School in Radford received a comedy-filled lesson from Jay Banks on bullying Monday morning.
Banks and his “I Am Unafraid” anti-bullying program have been featured on the Disney, Nickelodeon and Hallmark channels. Each year, Banks said he does an average of 350 programs across the United States.
Monday’s program marked Banks’ second trip to Belle Heth in as many years.
Last year, Banks’ visit to the school was funded by a grant provided by New River Community Services given to Radford City Schools, school counselor Molly McGuire said. Last year’s program was such a success the school decided to ask him to return this year, she added.
The program is based on a four-point strategy designed to educate and equip students. Using letters from the word “unafraid,” Banks’ program teaches students to remember the acronym AFRA.
Students are taught to: A – avoid bullies, F – find a friend, R – report bullies, and A – act confident.
As for the remaining letters in the word “unafraid,” Banks said students will have a new “ID” when the program is completed and they can live unafraid.
“We think the entertaining and funny delivery of Dr. Banks’ message helps students hold onto key points,” McGuire said. “His use of the acronym gives students an easy way to remember.”
According to www.iamunafraid.com, the program began 12 years ago when bullying became a “hot topic” in education. Banks’ son became the target of bullying so he decided to research the topic, which ultimately led to Banks’ “STAMP Out Bullying” program.
Eventually, Banks returned to school to earn his doctorate in professional studies in education specialization, and due to emerging research, the program has since evolved.
“The program is based on research that suggests the best way to reduce bullying is to empower victims and bystanders,” Banks said. “If we give them tools, we can reduce bullying, on average, by 50 percent.”
Banks said research indicates 80 percent to 90 percent of students are bullied annually and that 30 percent of students are bullied on a weekly basis.
“A research–validated program that reduces bullying by 50 percent, that’s a pretty good first start,” Banks said. “These kids don’t have to be afraid, and they’re not hopeless.”
The program, Banks said, gives students information about tools, people and strategies they can use to reduce bullying. About 39 percent of students will “suffer in silence,” according to research, Banks added.
“This program empowers them and tells them exactly what they need to do,” Banks said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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