B y Jaime Thomas
Somehow, over the course of the past 500 years or so, the word ‘bully’ has gone from meaning ‘sweetheart’ to describing cruel, habitual abuse.
In three high-energy presentations to varying levels of Granville students Thursday, former mixed martial arts champion Thomas Murphy addressed this issue.
Murphy’s charismatic style and background are exactly the right formula to engage students about a subject with which they’re constantly being inundated.
To open up Thursday’s upper level assemblies, Murphy played a video of himself fighting—he won an Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 58. He then came into the auditorium and made a surprisingly contradictory statement.
“He said, ‘Let’s make one thing clear–I hate to fight. It’s not about fighting, it’s about being a competitor,’” Junior and Senior Principal Camille Harrelson said.
Murphy is one of two founding members of Sweethearts and Heroes, a nonprofit organization that seeks to spread a message of tolerance, awareness of bullying and how to “jump into action.”
“It blows my mind that 96 percent of bullies get away with it,” he said, “when everyone has the power to stop it.”
He believes Sweethearts and Heroes is the number one bullying program in North America.
“Others are awareness-based, but what separates us is that we have an action plan,” Murphy said.
The presentation centers on the idea that most bullying could easily be stopped and comes at an appropriate time.
“He said there are three types of people—a bully, a victim and a bystander—80 to 85 percent of us fall into the bystander category,” Harrelson said. “We all have the opportunity to make a change.” Murphy acknowledged how hard it can be for people to help but provided simple tools for students to try.
“Most kids don’t know what to do, so I’m going to teach you the ABCs,” Murphy told elementary students.
‘A’ stands for getting a victim away from a bully; doing so could be as simple as asking for help with a locker. ‘B’ means being someone’s buddy, and ‘C’ is confronting the situation.
“He wanted to change people’s perspective. He said, ‘You need to actually do something instead of just saying you want to do something,’” said Sondra Smith, a school counselor. She said she’s heard a lot of positive feedback from both staff and students about the program.
Part of Murphy’s presentation is to explain what bullying actually is.
“Every person on the planet has a bully story. I was really getting into how devastating it can be, but only 2 to 3 percent of kids really get bullied,” he said. This message comes at an appropriate time; a recent survey found that more than 60 percent of Granville students feel they’ve been bullied.
Murphy spent the entire day in the district between giving three presentations and meeting with students.
Harrelson said his message was very powerful and positive.
“He taught them that in a mere 10 seconds you have a chance to stop bullying. Our hope is that the kids would really see school as their school community,” she said.
Jason Spector, Murphy’s partner and an amateur champion fighter, will meet with district staff next week to follow up on the presentation.