Nowadays when we read headlines, it’s difficult not to stumble across some heartbreaking news about a child or children being bullied. Bullying isn’t new, but the way it’s changing (with social media accessibility and the internet) has forced us to re-evaluate what we’re teaching children about bullying and howit can be prevented on both personal and community levels.
A fifth grader at Franklin Elementary in Mankato, MN poses a very important question. “Why pick on someone who has special needs?” he asks. Indeed, why pick on anyone, period — but according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website, children with disabilities are at an increased risk of being bullied. “Any number of factors — physical vulnerability, social skill challenges, or intolerant environments — may increase the risk,” it says.
But for James Willmert, a special needs student at Franklin Elementary, his five friends have worked tirelessly to fight off bullies and include him in class activities.
Speaking with USA Today, James’ classmate and buddy Jack said that James was facing some destructive behavior by his classmates who were less sympathetic to his condition. “They were like, using him and taking advantage of him. Because he’s easier to pick on, and it’s just not right,” says Jack.
They began including him in their schoolyard activities, inviting him over for video games, and talking to him at length about his favorite hobby, sports. And what these five boys have done have actually had a profound affect on James’ socialization, and his mother says his improvement has been astonishing. “They’re changing him,” she says with a smile.
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