Do kids need protection to fend off bullies? - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

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Do kids need protection to fend off bullies?

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - It's disturbing and hard to believe that just today one in four kids was bullied. The problem so bad, some kids turn to suicide. Now, bully protection products are hitting the market. One in particular...a backpack with a piercing alarm claiming to be your child's personal body guard. 

Six Gayton Elementary students sat down with us and are opening up about a problem plaguing our country. 

"Bullying means to me, hurting other people physically and emotionally," said 3rd grader Josh Striano.

"Teasing and hurting other people," said Rico Haden, 5th grader.

"Whoever is bullying somebody, they feel bad about them self and want to make the other person feel as bad as they do," said Riley Harper, 4th grader.

"If it's like a 5th grader pushed a kindergartner then that would be harsh!" said 3rd grader Drew Smith. 

Harsh, and happening everyday. These kids are on the frontline of a war inside schools across America. 

"Some people used to pick on me because my ears were more pointy," said Rico. 

Rico's photo is on the bulletin board at his Henrico school.  He is an over-achiever, who loves science. But he sits quietly, explaining how at one point, he dreaded coming to school. 

Melissa Correa: "How did it make you feel?"
Rico Haden: "Sad." 
Melissa Correa: "Did you ever go home and cry?  Were you afraid to come to school?"
Rico Haden: "Sometimes."  

He transferred to Henrico's Gayton Elementary. The 10-year-old feels safe, confident bullying is now a part of his past. 

"No one calls me names anymore and tries to like, be mean to me," he said. 

Fifth grader Devon also once endured the wrath of a bully. 

"I was actually made fun of myself for my size and my name," Devon said. "If you're bullied, you can be really hurt and you're kind of afraid the rest of your life." 

She also transferred to Gayton. The school boasts it's eight year track record of little to no bullying. 

"It doesn't happen very often at this school because of the NBA," said Christian Geary, 5th grader.
"NBA stands for No Bullying Allowed," explained Josh Striano. 

The golden banner symbolizes the golden rule: treat others as you'd like to treat yourself. It's an exclusive club with it's own VIP card. Principal Peggy Wingfield rewards students for acts of kindness. 

"We want kids to be able to walk in the door and have fun learning," Wingfield said. 

Students here know they are protected. 

Melissa Correa: "And what does that mean to you, coming to a school where no one gets picked on?" 
Drew Smith: "It's like very nice. Like that makes more people want to come here. And it will pass on...like different counties, different schools.  It might even stop bullying all across America, maybe." 

If that doesn't work there's this, a $60 bag you can buy online. The I-safe backpack advertised as a personal body guard. It's equipped with an alarm system and flashing red lights. When you're in trouble, pull the string and the alarm can be heard from 100 feet away. 

Melissa Correa: "Do you think this would keep a bully away?"
Kids: "Yes! That would!"
Riley Harper: "It probably would scare them, but they might not go away.  They might just get angry with you for scaring them. I would actually feel bad for the kid who has to use a backpack if they were that terrified of the bully and they would have to use it.  They were desperate."

But Gayton's principal isn't sold. 

"I feel like that it might become more of a distraction where they would be, like you just saw, interested in pulling the strings or how it works," Wingfield said. "I could picture of example on a bus, and how what devastation that could be." 

Other students are turning to martial arts of the mouth. Bill Gross with Martial Arts World teaches verbal judo in Chesterfield. 

"We de-escalate situations with words instead of physical violence," Gross said. 

In 12 weeks, students learn to flip words on a bully. 

Melissa Correa: "Do you think verbal commands work?"
Christian Geary: "I would say here, yes it would work. But maybe in other schools not as much." 

Judy Clary is a counselor at Gayton. 

"My goal would be to teach children internal tools that they can use to protect themselves in situations like this, as opposed to having an external tool," she said. 

She says that's the way to stop a bully from harassing classmates. 

"It's just not something that you forget because it is so hurtful," Clary added.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.

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