Henrico students Mix It Up at lunch in hopes to squash bullying

Posted at 7:22 PM, Oct 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-29 19:22:13-04

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)--They’re the headlines that grab parents’ attention:  child commits suicide and bullying is to blame.

Said stories are what schools are working to avoid.

In Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico anti-bullying programs year-round are designed to make students aware and keep them engaged.

Today Henrico students added their own flair to the national Mix It Up program. Three Chopt Elementary guidance counselor Elizabeth Jensen said nearly 300 students took part in the program that aims to promote tolerance and acceptance among students.

The ground zero of helping kids break down barriers ? The cafeteria.

There, students were rearranged and placed next to other students with who they wouldn’t normally associate.  Experts believe the cafeteria is a place students tend to separate themselves by groups, lunch time normally when some kids struggle to fit in with their peers.

Tuesday’s exercise helped students recognize and accept each other’s differences.

“It means they’re very special and they might have a special talent that you might not even have,” one third grader told CBS 6 News.  She said it’s good to recognize that everyone is different and we should learn to accept that.

Jensen said the kids really take the message seriously.

“Once they get to know each other, it decreases bullying and increases self-esteem,” Jensen said. “As we know, the higher your self-esteem, the less bullying in your schools.”

As part of the exercise, adults from around the school, teachers, administrators, custodians and parents manned the tables in the cafeteria. The adults helped students get to know each other with ice-breaking activities.

Students shared information and learned about other students at their table. They were also not allowed to leave the table until they could introduce someone from their table and share a special fact that they learned about that person.

“As the kids are interconnected it kind of makes a kid that’s a fifth grader look out for that first grader, welcoming them to their group. It’s a good program about acceptance,” Jensen added.