Oak Park Kids Learn “Don’t be a Monster”

 

Oak Park Kids Learn “Don’t be a Monster”

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 1, 2018)

Oak Park, MI – Fourth and Fifth graders at Pepper Elementary School in Oak Park got a special visit from a “new kid in school” named Frank.  In spite of Frank’s giant forehead scar, taupish pallor and chain-draped rag clothing, Frank is not a monster.  The real monsters, Frank taught, were the bullies.

The assembly was led by actor and voice over artist Mac Kelly who is most famously known as “Wolfman Mac.”  One of his favorite roles now is going to schools throughout Oakland County and doing the “Don’t be a Monster” presentation to help teach kids not to be a bully, what to do if they are bullied, and how to stop bullying behavior.

His buddy Dave Doran, who also has a voice that’s been often on the radio as a radio rock jock for several stations, played Frankie.

Both men feel good about using their talents to help youngsters avoid bullying.  “When I was a kid, I used to stutter,” Kelly said to the students in the Pepper Elementary gymnasium.  “Now I do radio and television commercials.  I speak professionally. If you are being picked on, maybe it’s because of something you’re good at.  You may have a talent that you end up using later in life.”

Through the presentation, students watched video of Frankie going through school, with bullies making fun of him, mocking him away from a lunch table, and being tormented online with nasty comments.

But there were also examples of how other people stepped in to help Frankie.  “You can stand up and tell other people to stop,” Kelly said.  “You can create a distraction, or you can tell a teacher or your principal.” He also added that kids can make sure all kids feel included, not to leave anyone out.”

Kelly asked in any of the teachers in the room were bullied when they were a kid, and nearly all raised their hands.  This was a surprise to many of the children.  Kelly also talked about how he got bullied so bad that he would fake getting sick so he could sometimes get out of going.

“You have a right to be here in school. You have a right to learn.  Skipping school only makes things worse for yourself,” he said.  According to the presentation, 40% of students say they have been bullied in person, and 70% of students say they have been bullied online.

He told the kids that sometimes people say things they don’t mean, but that bullying is done intentionally and aggressively.  He said that behavior that targets a person to make them feel hurt is bullying behavior.  And if someone is doing it anonymously, such as with a fake account online, or spreading rumors behind someone’s back, that they are acting like a bully.  “If you are doing something and you have to hide, then you are doing something wrong,” Kelly said.

On screen, Frankie is seen upset. He types a status into social media saying that he is going to start acting like a monster if that is all people see of him.  Yet a couple other kids come up and start chatting with him, seeing if everything is okay. He feels better and changes his status. “Bullies are the real monsters,” he types.

At the end kids were asked in Frankie would be welcome at their school, and with a resounding yes Frankie was no longer just the character on screen. Kids greeted him with cheers, high-fives and hugs.

“This is a good program,” said fourth grade teacher Maureen Line.  “It gets to the kids and helps them think about how to treat each other.

Kids were given wrist bands that include the link to OK2SAY, a state-run bulling reporting line where kids can message reports of bulling, harassment or other worrisome behavior.  There is also the number for the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Don’t be a Monster is a national program supported by local haunted houses and attractions. Erebus in Downtown Pontiac sponsors the presentations in Oakland County. Learn more about presentations such as this, and other resources for bullying prevention, at http://dontbeamonster.org.

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