The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 5, 2014

Bullying takes center stage

Expert shows kids its web of destruction

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — If you heard a loud roar in Sharon Tuesday, it was nothing to be alarmed about. It was coming from the Sharon Tigers at Case Avenue Elementary School.

A presentation on friendship and bullying by award-winning author Trudy Ludwig was kicked off with kids dancing, flipping across the gym floor and flying through the air to Katy Perry’s hit song “Roar.”

Choreographing the dance is one example of how Principal Traci Valentino is able to put a positive spin on a very sensitive issue.

“We don’t deny we have bullying, but we try to address it in a positive way by rewarding positive behavior,” Valentino said.

Orange and black “Hear Us Roar” shirts speckled the auditorium for Ludwig’s long-awaited visit.

Ludwig began her colorful presentation by donning a Charlie Chan-type hat.

“You make a choice to put on a bullying hat or take it off,” Ludwig said. “There’s one reason that kids bully: They make a conscious decision to be cruel.”

Ludwig has garnered rave reviews nationwide for the way she addresses bullying and friendship. She’s been featured on shows such as ABC’s “Good Morning America” and PBS’s “Keeping Kids Healthy,” and as an expert panel member on Sesame Street Workshop’s anti-bullying video series.

Ludwig’s first day in Sharon included a presentation in Case Avenue’s gym geared toward kindergarten to second grade. In the afternoon, she put on a show for kids in third through sixth grade.

After school, Ludwig held an in-service presentation for staff of the city’s three elementary schools. In the evening, parents filled the gym at Case for her presentation, “Understanding our kids’ online and offline social world: friendships, cliques and power plays.”

She will spend today at Musser and West Hill elementary schools.

Ludwig included the kids at Case, as well as the faculty, to demonstrate ways of empowering kids to stand up to bullies.

She created a “bullying web” to demonstrate how bullying hurts many people.

Red yarn symbolized the web, weaving its way around and in between kids and staff standing in a circle.

In order to cut out the web, the cycle of the bullying had to be broken by those involved.

“By protecting the kid being bullied and helping the kid who’s bullying,” she said.

Ludwig’s presentation follows the lines of Case’s anti-bullying campaign.

She said adults should use bad behavior or bullying as a way of  “turning mistakes into teachable moments.”

Case’s faculty record every occurrence of bad behavior and enter it into a database.

The data is reviewed at teachers’ meetings and when a trend in where and when a certain behavior happens is found, they take the chance to turn it into a “teachable moment.”

Valentino gave the example of a child being pushed out of the way when it’s his turn on a swing in the playground. If the behavior is ongoing, the theme at the school for awhile will be covering the rules of the playground.

“This shows the adults are on top of it,” Ludwig said, adding that it builds trust with kids.

 A staple of teaching anti-bullying behavior or basic core value happens first thing in every classroom in Case, Valentino said.

In classroom morning meetings, exercises such as the “bullying web” are used.

“Kids get a chance to greet each other,” Valentino said. “It’s a way to start the day on a positive note.”

“We say ‘This is the Case Avenue Way’ to the kids all the time,” Valentino said, adding that they work on teaching kids how to treat each other with respect and hope they take it home with them.

Federal funding and the Case Parent Teacher Organization made Trudy Ludwig’s visit to Sharon possible. Visit for more information on her work and her books, “My Secret Bully,” “Just Kidding,” “Sorry! Trouble Talk,” “Too Perfect,” “Confessions of a Former Bully,” “Better Than You,” and “The Invisible Boy.”