As Clark County students head back to school this week teachers and administrators want to preach tolerance and good behavior.
A Southeastern High School student has taken it upon herself to preach a similar message — to be kind.
“It all started when I walked into the girl’s locker room (last school year) and there was a chalkboard and there were negative, hurtful comments on it about other students and my friends,” Southeastern junior Mozie VanRaaij said. “I took a picture of it before so I could send it to the school authorities and then I erased it and wrote the words ‘be kind’ on it.”
VanRaaij then took a picture of the new message and posted it on social media. The post picked up traction and was liked many times on Instagram. She then decided to make T-shirts encouraging others to be kind and handed them out on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
“It means to be nice to everybody, even if you don’t really like someone or you don’t really know somebody or if you have problems with someone,” she said. “Just be kind anyway because there is no reason to start anything over something small.”
VanRaaij has started selling the shirts for $12, and all of the money goes into a scholarship and community fund. It goes to projects like the Clark County Fair, charities and it’s taken off.
“Everyone knows me as the ‘Be Kind’ girl because of the shirts,” VanRaaij said.
Bullying is an issue in all schools, she said, and it needs to stop.
“It’s people not tolerating each other’s differences,” she said.
Ross Ellis is the founder and CEO of the national organization STOMP Out Bullying. She said VanRaaij’s actions are a great way to stand up to bullying.
“We did a survey two years ago about what kids think about kindness,” she said. “It’s a real issue because they feel like there is not enough kindness in the world. And they not seeing it from adults and they are not seeing it from their peers.”
Bullying cases have gone down in America recently, Ellis said, but it remains an issue in American schools.
“The bigger issue is cyber-bullying,” she said. “We empower students by giving them the tools to deal with the bully. You cannot ignore it. I can’t stand when people say ignore the bully. That will never work.”
Instead, Ellis says the best way to handle a bully is by telling them that you don’t care about their opinion and walking away.
“I’m addressing them and being empowered but I am walking away and not having a conversation,” she said. “That just kills them because you are taking away their power.”
Making sure your child isn’t a bully can be difficult, Ellis said.
“You can tell your kids and you can talk to them all you want but ultimately they are going to do what they want at school when you’re not around,” she said. “However, it’s not a bad thing for parents to have conversations constantly about being kind to people.”