‘Buddy Bench’ gives students a safe place to report bullying
ENGLEWOOD, Fla. (WTSP) A 10-year-old in Colorado took her own life because of bullying. A Denver television station talked with her parents who say she hanged herself after a video was put on social media of her standing up to her bully.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard similar tragedies.
One school in Englewood in Sarasota County has found an easier way for students to speak up if they are having problems with other students or at home.
Englewood Elementary students know if they see someone sitting on a yellow bench it’s a sign they need help.
What should they do?
“Walk over, say, ‘Want to play with me? Are you OK?’” says third-grader Mila Carnell, 7.
Mila says she’s approached students many times and that’s how she and classmate Alexis met last year.
“Nobody wanted to play with her at the playground,” Mila said. “I came over said, ‘You want to play with me?’ and we became good friends.”
The school has three Buddy Benches. It’s a safe place for students to let others know they’re not OK.
“Buddy Benches become their voice,” said Englewood Principal Mark Grossenbacher. He said the students took to the concept right away three years ago and use it every day.
“That’s a safe place to be open with others and look for help if necessary,” said Grossenbacher.
The principal says he’s very proud of his students when he sees one reach out to another sitting on a Buddy Bench.
“They got it,” he said. “They care for others around them and care for their community. They want to see others feel good about themselves.”
Mila said, “I want to be nice and supportive to a person feeling left out.”
That’s what Logan Foster did two years ago when he reached out to his best friend Brayden Hays, who was a new student at the time.
Fifth-grader Brayden, 10, remembers how he felt as a new student last year: “I was feeling lonely and anxious.”
“I approached and asked if he wanted to play soccer,” recalled Logan, who’s also 10.
Brayden said, “I thought he’d be a good friend, and that’s how it turned out.”
The benches cost around $300 and are made from recycled bottle caps the students collected.
The principal says students know to get an adult if a classmate is having a serious problem.
The Buddy Benches are also popular with adults. The principal says on parents’ night, some new parents use it to meet other parents.