By Ally Morrison
In an effort to take a stand against bullying, Hoover City Schools and its partners dedicated a week to promoting and cultivating an atmosphere of kindness in the school system and community.
Be Kind Week, which this year had the theme “Kindness Begins With Me,” was held Feb. 12-19. The Wednesday of that week, Robert F. Bumpus Middle School students dressed in pink shirts for the highlighted event of the week, Pink Shirt Day, to show solidarity by supporting acts of kindness and discouraging acts of bullying.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato and Superintendent Dee Fowler visited Bumpus Middle to speak with students about the reason for the kindness campaign.
“We are so excited about Be Kind Week for the City of Hoover,” Brocato said to students. It’s important to be kind to people and be encouraging and respectful for everyone no matter who they are or where they are from. It’s what this week is all about, but it’s also what life is all about. We’re a city made up of so many different people in so many different walks of life, and you never know what they’re going through. A word of encouragement from you can go a long way.”
Brocato stood with student body President Elijah Burns as students took turns reading paragraphs from a city proclamation establishing Be Kind Week. The last sentence of the proclamation was read by Burns.
“Now, therefore, be a result that I, Elijah Burns, do hereby urge the citizens of our community to join us in observing the week of Feb. 12-19, 2022, as Be Kind Week and Feb. 16 as Pink Shirt Day.” Burns read.
Hoover City school board President Amy Tosney spoke to the students.
“To be a part of this means that you are all kind and you show compassion,” Tosney said. “You are the next generation of greatness. Don’t let this just be one week; continue to be kind and keep it going forever.”
Representatives from the Hoover City Schools Foundation took to Facebook to post a video of Spain Park High School senior Zahra Bardai giving the history behind Be Kind Week and Pink Shirt Day.
“A student was bullied because he was wearing a pink shirt, and he was bullied every single day for that same reason,” Bardai said. “There were two brave kids in the high school who stood up for him and wore pink to show support. Kindness week helps to spread awareness throughout the school and also bring the community together.
“I wear pink today to show support but also to remind people to do something kind every single day. It’s going to make someone’s day and may even change their life.”
According to Hoover schools Mental Health Coordinator Kandace VanWanderham, Be Kind Week and Pink Shirt Day were established to cultivate a culture of caring and kindness for students throughout the school district. As the initiative grew, the school system partnered with the community with the goal of creating a citywide movement to stand against bullying in the community, workplace and school system.
Be Kind Week also includes community service initiatives at each school in the district. Each school chose either a canned food drive for Grace Klein and local church food pantries, a donation drive to collect food and other items to care for animals at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, or a book drive to collect elementary-level books for children in the community.
Other OTM Schools Work Against Bullying
Other schools in the Over the Mountain area, such as Vestavia Hills and Homewood city schools, also have anti-bullying initiatives in place.
One of the primary initiatives Vestavia Hills City Schools has taken in recent years is implementing a bullying report system, which allows students and parents to report concerns via text message, phone, email or mobile app. If needed, these reports can be sent anonymously.
According to Whit McGhee, director of public relations for Vestavia Hills schools, the program was piloted in 2020 and had such success that the school system decided to renew it for the long term later that year.
Additionally, the Vestavia Hills system implemented character education with initiatives that help foster positive character traits and build friendships. Several schools in the system have been named state and National Schools of Character.
Schools in Homewood also strive to keep kindness and generosity a priority among students, faculty and staff.
According to Homewood schools’ director of communications, Merrick Wilson, all elementary schools in the Homewood school system participate a program that divides them among “Nest groups” or the “House system.”
Students and staff remain in the same house or nest for their entire time at the elementary school to promote student and faculty relationships and to participate in projects to show kindness throughout the year.
Homewood High School participated in Random Acts of Kindness Week during the week of Feb. 14, and in January Homewood Middle School participated in the Great Kindness Challenge to promote acts of kindness among students and staff.