PEER takes a Stand: PEER campaigns against bullying during October

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By Tori Custer

While most students in October are preparing for Halloween by watching scary movies or picking out costumes, many others are facing real monsters. According to DoSomething.org, bullying affects more than 3 million students every year.

About 160,000 students find bullying to be so daunting that they don’t even attend school, studies showing that one in every ten students dropping out due to bullying. Even more alarming than those statistics are the ones that show the effect of bullying on mental illness and suicide. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, suicide is the second top cause of death in teenagers, only behind accidental death. A study by Yale University revealed that bullying victims were more likely to take their life by seven to nine percent. PEER, a student organization devoted to promoting unity, is taking steps to destroy these statistics during the month of October.
“Bullying prevention month is a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of bullying and work to prevent it. It is important because bullying is still a serious epidemic in middle school and high school,” said senior member of PEER, Shea Wenzler.
PEER is doing much to spread word of their campaign by making posters, decorating the display case, and making red t-shirts. After October 19, students wore red every Thursday to unite against bullying for the campaign with the added incentive of the chance to win candy. Many teachers wore handmade t-shirts designed by PEER to promote the cause.
“Loudoun County’s initiative for this year is mental depression and highlighting that issue in teenagers. So our PEER program has put together a campaign just to highlight that bullying leads to other depressive symptoms, subsequently suicide, and we don’t want anyone to attempt suicide and certainly we don’t want anyone to succeed,” said Ms. Valeria Austin, PEER sponsor.
According to BullyingNoWay.gov, bullying occurs for a variety of reasons, including the bully finding it pleasurable, making them feel in control, or even giving them the possibility of becoming popular among other students. Despite the many varieties of reasons, there is a common desire among bullies: a reaction. They want to see fear or sadness, something that shows them they are winning. While this is the type of reaction the bully wants, sometimes it isn’t the one they receive. Ms. Austin explains the power a student bystander might have over a bullying just by showing their disapproval, “I can say something as a teacher, but the minute I turn my back the person might return to the same action, but if a person the same age as you, someone in your class that you respect, stands up for another person, then that person is likely not to do it again cause they feel bad.”
While Tuscarora has shown unity even in the toughest of times, the school has problems with bullying like other schools across America.
“It’s more the neglect of people who do not fit in, and the obsession with social status that ostracizes certain students,” said PEER member and senior Nate Almario.
Junior Komil Chagtai, also a member of PEER, believes bullying has adapted to the increased use of technology in society, “It gives bullies another platform for bullies who don’t want to do it to their face. It also shows how powerful words are, and they just mean so much.”
While bullying comes in all shapes and forms, even its most basic and known appearance is still common today. Ms. Austin described seeing students making fun of someone else in the library until a bystander stepped forward. The problem is that bullying doesn’t end for every student so easily.
“Our hope in PEER is that if you’re being bullied, we want you to come talk to one of us. Find a PEER and talk to us about how it affects you. The last thing we want you to do is to commit some type of act that is detrimental to your wellbeing,” said Ms. Austin.