By Clay Sawatzke
One of the biggest issues in schools around the country in recent years has been bullying. And one of the biggest issues with bullying is the lack of awareness, and the lack of people that will stand up to it. But with the aid of a new movie, one Monticello Middle School student is hoping to change both of those issues.
Levi Werp, a sixth-grader at Monticello, wore a signature-inducing, stop-bullying T-shirt to school on May 9, prompting many signatures and helping to raise awareness of one of the key issues in schools these days. Werp,12, has never been afraid to stand up to people for those around him. He has two younger brothers with special needs, and he’s had a few too many chances to see the negatives of the human race. But his mom, Tricia Werp, says it has made him willing and able to step up to bullies.
“He’s grown up trying to teach others not to prejudge,” said Tricia.
But when Levi went to see the new movie “Bully” with his mom and other relatives, he realized there was a lot of teaching still to do. Bully is a documentary that intimately portrays bullying victims’ daily lives. It’s heartbreaking, but according to many, accurate. It also leaves an impression.
“I want to do something,” said Levi, as soon as they got into the car after the movie.
So Levi and his mom went to work on coming up with an idea. He first suggested fliers, but they weren’t sure how long it would take to get permission to put those up around school. After a few more ideas, they came around to a winner: a stop bullying T-shirt.
Tricia says Levi handled the process basically from start to finish, deciding that he wanted to do the T-shirt, what he wanted to write on it and that he wanted people to sign it.
“I was so scared for him,” his mom said. “But he wasn’t nervous at all about doing it.”
Once the shirt was all ready to go, it read, “If you’re against bullying, sign my shirt.”
Turns out, quite a few people were willing to stand up to bullying when given a forum to do so. Werp estimated that he got 80 signatures, during just half a day of school. And almost all of them were positive.
“One kid wrote ‘I’m fat,’” said Werp. “I was very disappointed in him.”
The focus of the day certainly wasn’t negative. Werp was overwhelmingly positive about the experience. But it’s noteworthy, because it’s Levi’s ability to be disappointed and not angry, to stand up and make a difference and not just reflect on what he saw in the movie, and to come up with a platform to make that difference, that make him stand out not just as a student, but as a person.
From all accounts, the movie is a moving film that raises awareness amongst those who see it. Levi raised awareness for all of those who saw him.
“Levi took it the extra mile,” said his uncle, Mark Lynde, who was also at the movie with his wife and daughters. “He made a difference. He certainly made them aware.”