Washington Rose Elementary sixth-grader Lanyah Ford has witnessed bullying firsthand.
“They were messing with her for no reason and I told them to stop,” Lanyah, 11, said. “People shouldn’t do it because you can hurt someone.”
Fighting back against bullying was the message at the Roosevelt elementary school Tuesday afternoon as Jonathan "Hawk" Thomas of the Harlem Globetrotters presented "The ABCs of Bullying Prevention" – action, bravery and compassion.
The life lesson wasn’t lost on the kids, said Rosa Dluginsky, a sixth-grade special education teacher who said she expects the children to practice what they heard at the assembly.
“This was very hands-on and real for them,” Dluginsky said.
Thomas dazzled the crowd with some ball-handling skills and elicited screeching cheers from students when he asked them which teacher they preferred to attempt some tricks.
Thomas, 26, also shared other life lessons, including perseverance. As a college basketball player at North Carolina State, Thomas blew out his knee in his freshman year. While rehabilitating, he renewed his focus on academics. He would later graduate with a sports management degree from Marshall University.
“I was not going to let that injury define me,” the 6-foot-5 forward said.
Washington Rose Principal Clyde Braswell said Thomas was a good choice to speak at the school, because many students there aspire to be a professional basketball player.
“This is someone the students can relate to,” he added.
And his greatest message on this day was bullying, which the school has no tolerance for. In fact, students recite a Bullying Pledge each morning after the Pledge of Allegiance.
English as a Second Language teacher Mirla Mercado said the policy prevents most bullying, as students usually “keep each other in line.”
It was a lesson learned for Kris Pierre, 10, who said it’s important “not to judge other kids because they don’t look or talk like you.”