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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Musician brings message on how to fight bullying

Positive attitude works, Joel Brantley advises Pasadena Park Elementary students

Joel Brantley does an Elvis Presley impersonation at Pasadena Park Elementary School during an anti-bullying talk on Friday. (Tyler Tjomsland)

At Pasadena Park Elementary School, students are learning ways to defuse bullying.

Counseling assistant Sue Shipton said involving students early in the school year helps prevent bullying at Pasadena Park Elementary School throughout the year.

One of the ways Shipton is spreading the message about bullying is inviting musician Joel Brantley, a man with a message for kids about what to do when they are being bullied or see it on the playground.

“It’s good that he comes and shares with the kindergarteners and the first-graders,” said Carly Bale, a fifth-grader.

Shipton said Brantley came to Pasadena last fall and about three-fourths of students still remembered his visit in June.

Brantley visits about 100 schools and libraries a year in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Tennessee and Kentucky. Friday, he started off the performance by pulling students up to the front for a hand jive.

“How many students have been bullied?” he asked the crowd of about 400 kids. Many of them raised their hands. Some of them said they had seen bullying.

He recommended that when it happens, students stand up for themselves, put their hands in front of them and say, “stop,” not loudly, but firmly.

“Don’t yell or touch the person,” he said.

Brantley talked about using positive ways to stop bullies, like making a joke, giving the bully a little bit of kindness or changing the subject.

“Come up with your own thing, but make sure it’s positive,” he told them. “The bully wants a negative reaction out of you.”

Then he pulled more students to the front of the room, gave them rubber guitars and Elvis sunglasses and played “Splish Splash.” He taught them how to shake their legs, sneer like the King, then to say, “Thank you, thank you very much,” in their best Elvis voices. Many of the classic rock ’n’ roll songs he played had the words changed to reflect his message.

Brantley told them to stand up for other students they see being bullied. He also said that spreading kindness is a good way to stop bullying.

“I try to do something nice for someone I don’t know every day,” he said.

Of course, he said if things get really bad, kids should always tell an adult about what is happening.

“I don’t see it too often,” Carly said about bullying at her school. “Just every once in a while. I think they should stop.”

For Shipton, getting the message out to her students is important.

“Bullying is always at schools,” she said, but they talk about the problem in the classroom so students come to the adults at the school.

“They’re the ones who see it,” she said.