Stand up and speak out

Raissa Tetanish
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Former bully shares story to middle school students

MILFORD – Aaron Lemmons-Tipping went from being a bully to class valedictorian.

Now, the former Cobequid Educational Centre graduate is volunteering his time with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s local office.

“I was an a**hole. That’s what I was,” said Lemmons-Tipping, following a short musical performance and chat with 600 students at the Riverside Education Centre yesterday for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board’s ‘Stand Up. Speak Out. Stop Bullying. Together’ initiative.

“I was really mean to my friends, and they’re my best friends now. In Grade 8, I was angry, I had anger management issues, I was grieving and I was depressed. I took it out on my friends.”

In the years to follow, Lemmons-Tipping’s principal recognized some of the issues he was going through and got him into an anger management class.

“That, for me, was really the greatest thing. It opened up doors to discovering mental illness and ridding my stigma around mental illnesses,” he said.

Having those issues out in the open and under control, Lemmons-Tipping said playing the guitar also helps him cope.

“The guitar and music allows me to put some emotion into it. When you listen to my music, you can hear my anger and my pain in a lot of it. I really enjoy it.”

It’s his story that is one of the main voices in the school board’s video to the anti-bullying initiative, which students will have a chance to view through their schools.

Before Lemmons-Tipping came out to talk to the students, they heard Makayla Lynn perform ‘True Colours,’ after which Grade 8 student Wesley Giffin spoke.

“Anytime we have an assembly like this, I always think it’s a good thing to hear someone’s experiences,” said 13-year-old Autumn Heukshorst following the hour-long event. “When someone sees bullying or is being bullied, they should always go for help but a lot of people don’t because they’re shy or embarrassed.

“But you need to get help or the problem won’t ever get solved.”

Heukshorst and fellow Grade 8 student Josh Sampson said the school and students are doing a lot to combat bullying.

“I think it’s great what the school board is doing,” said Sampson, also 13. “We have a lot of regular assemblies and now we can be more active.”

Sampson said he’s often had friends and classmates approach him after an incident to seek his help and advice.

“I always help them through it and get them to talk about it,” said Sampson.

Speaking briefly, Giffin told the students they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up, or to speak out anytime they see bullying.

“Bullying has always been a touchy subject for me,” he said. “I have never been bullied or have had the feeling of being bullied, but I can’t wrap it around my head how a student could do that.”

He said sometimes the bully is just someone that needs help – with courses or just needs a friend.

“Sometimes they just need to find their way,” he added, noting even doing something small can make a big difference.

The board’s Stand Up. Speak Out initiative focuses on the root causes of bullying – the breakdown of relationships between people – and not just punishing one person or one group for their actions.

Along with the video, the initiative features handbooks which includes the tenets of Social and Emotional Learning initiatives operating in the board’s schools and offices. The handbooks explain bullying behaviour and what it isn’t.

The board also re-wrote its Code of Conduct to spell out what behaviours and actions won’t be tolerated at schools, as well as the consequences.

For more information on the handbooks, they can be assessed online at www.ccrsb.ca.

 

rtetanish@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @TDNRaissa

 

WHAT TO DO:

-      If you’re being bullied: Report it to an adult or teacher, get support from the people around you by talking about it, walk away with confidence.

-      If you witness bullying: Speak up to the bully and those around you, provide an escape for the person being bullied and support the victim after the situation is over.

-       If you think you’re a bully: Change your behaviour even if it means getting help, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself reasons why you choose to bully.

Organizations: Central Regional School Board, Riverside Education Centre, Cobequid Educational Centre

Geographic location: Chignecto

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