Members of the Minnesota Vikings taught an excited and energetic group of Groveland Elementary students March 8 about bullying through the organization’s STOP Bullying program.
The program is focused on an acronym: STOP Bullying, which stands for: Stand up, take action, open up and protect yourself. The kindergarten-grade five program attends more than 20 schools a year across the Twin Cities metro area.
Groveland Elementary students in grades 2-5 participated in the seminar.
“We strive to do as much as we can to prevent bullying,” said Dave Parker, Groveland Elementary principal. “This personalizes the message and makes it very impactful.”
“It’s so important to teach kids to be kind and to have empathy for others,” Sara Lovelace, second-grade teacher, added. “It should start as early as possible and that’s what we do at Groveland. We don’t have bullying per say in this school. We may have a little but we have a very kind and absolutely wonderful school and bullying is handled quickly. It’s not tolerated.”
The STOP Bullying program is in partnership with Verizon and the PACER Center, which provides support and advocacy for children with disabilities and their families.
“PACER has a national anti-bullying platform and it’s amazing to see that Groveland Elementary not only follows the bullying protocol that not all cities do, but they continue to invest in programs like the Vikings STOP Bullying program to land inclusion and kindness,” said Dan Levinson, a PACER board member and Groveland Elementary parent.
“We think it’s amazing that Viktor’s quest STOP Bulling is reaching students at such a young age about what they can do to be involved and how they can actually help prevent bullying and change the nature at their schools,” said Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. “Community involvement is so powerful when addressing the issue of bullying. The more that awareness can be raised and understand what they can do, the sooner we can change the culture of bullying in or society.”
The program was led by the Vikings mascot Viktor and Taylor, a Vikings cheerleader. The Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders do not provide last names.
“We are a part of an organization that has the ability to impact others and has such a loud voice,” Taylor said. “It’s so important that we help in anyway we can. Kids are so receptive when they see the Vikings and they get so excited. It’s important that they know bullying is not okay and if we have that voice to say it’s not okay then maybe they’ll listen to us.”
An instructional video featured a variety of bullying scenarios in addition to messages from Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders, “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen and Vikings players Adam Thielen and Danielle Hunter.
The students learned about four different types of bullying – verbal, social, physical and cyber – and how to appropriately respond should they become a bystander or victim of bullying themselves.
“I learned there are four different kinds of bullying and that they’re all really bad,” said Groveland Elementary student Charlie Carlson. “This really helps prevent bullying by know what it is.”
“I learned that it’s not nice to bully and it hurts other people when they do get bullied,” added student Paige Dillon. “I appreciate it to because my friends have been bullied before and they didn’t feel good after. This helps a lot because a lot of times people don’t know their bullying.”
Members of the Minnetonka High School football team also assisted Viktor and Taylor.
“It’s important to give the kids the opportunity to learn how to stand up for themselves and others,” said Daniel Viger. “Bullying is frowned upon and being a bully isn’t doing the right thing and using the acronym is an easy way to teach kids.”
“By the time you get to high school there are so many groups of people and people are so different that you kind of need to be accepting of everyone,” added James Van Horne. “It’s important to learn at a young age that bullying is not the right way to treat others.”
Contact Paige Kieffer at [email protected]