by: Scott Wickersham Updated:
MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - The handmade signs at Lake Wylie Elementary make it clear: "We don't do that here"
The school won't tolerate bullying because, "We don't do that here."
It's an important message, according to some students, who said they've been bullied or they've seen it happen to others.
"This boy, he made fun of my clothes and my hair," said one student.
"One of the girls came up and punched me in my face," said another.
"I wish someone would have stepped in and just pulled him back off me," said a third.
Schools nationwide are dealing with a growing bullying problem.
Lake Wylie is one of several Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools where a local nonprofit is trying to create a culture that simply won't put up with it.
Sid Krupkin is with the Foundation for Respect Ability and visits the school every week. They sing songs to build awareness and compassion and they talk about why some children bully others.
"Can you tell me what a bully looks like?" Krupkin asked.
"A normal kid that's mean," said a student.
"A bully is a normal kid, but he just made a mistake. He made a bad choice," Krupkin said.
They also spend a lot of time talking about why bullying cannot be ignored.
"The 'upstander' concept means that they are willing to speak up, to say something, to do something or to bring help in so that something can be done to make the situation better," Krupkin said.
Krupkin said when kids learn to be upstanders instead of bystanders, they realize it's not just nice of them to intervene when they see bullying -- it's actually expected.
Principal Tracey Hayes said those lessons are making a difference.
"[There's] a shift that we have seen, just a positive culture in the way students respect and treat each other. We've also seen a decrease in discipline referrals across the school," Hayes said.
The students are getting the message.