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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2001

Washington Local aims to stop bullying tactics

Dennis McCoy, a sixth grader, is the school's overall winner. Dennis McCoy, a sixth grader, is the school's overall winner.

It began with a note on a chart from a doctor concerned about a fifth grader with a curved spine who was teased and tripped in the hallways at Greenwood School.

It is ending with an emphasis on tolerance and putting a stop to the name calling as the Washington Local school finishes the first month of a “Remind to Be Kind” program to eliminate bullying and encourage kindness.

“Everybody is wrapped up with what people look like,” said Lisa Gunther, who teaches fifth grade. Pupils are learning how much name-calling can hurt and are trying to be respectful, she said.

The doctor's note caught the eye of Dan Cole, a pediatric rehabilitation specialist and father of three teenagers. Mr. Cole, who made a back brace for the girl, spoke with the child's mother and contacted Greenwood principal Bill Magginis.

“School should be fun and for learning, not a place for someone to come to class and be ridiculed,” Mr. Cole said yesterday.

The girl - who has scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine - was abused verbally and tripped in the hallway, Mr. Cole said.

Mr. Cole spoke to 80 fifth graders about the girl's condition and brought sample X-rays so students could understand her condition. After his presentation, he had to do about 80 examinations because students were concerned about their own health.

Yesterday's award ceremony marked a miniature version of a clearinghouse sweepstakes.

Cheers, wide eyes, and applause greeted a CD player and $15 gift certificates as the prize patrol rolled into classrooms.

Pupils who behaved well and did good deeds last month received blue slips from staff members to encourage the positive behavior and stop the bullying and teasing. The slips were put in a box near the principal's office to be tallied.

White slips went to those with disciplinary problems and were subtracted from the good deeds.

The overall winner, sixth grader Dennis McCoy, and 27 other pupils were recognized yesterday as slips for May were collected. Dennis had 17 blue slips for the month.

Winners leaped from their seats and were applauded after being recognized by Mr. Magginis and Mr. Cole, who donated the money for the prizes. Children in kindergarten to third grade received gift certificates to Toys R Us. The rest of the pupils will spend their new-found wealth at Media Play.

“I just worked hard so I could get the prize,” Dennis said. “It might encourage people to do it more often.”

Dennis filled his teacher's water bottle and helped classmates with their assignment books to earn enough blue slips for the prize.

School officials and Mr. Cole hope the rewarded behavior becomes common practice, because “human nature is based on incentives.”

“There were just piles and piles of tickets,” Mrs. Gunther said. “I know the teachers are promoting the tickets and the kids are trying.”

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