Students have the power to stop bullying in their schools.

Jeremy Rubenstein, creator of Box Out Bullying, and co-actor Dave Feldman visited all county elementary schools last week to let students know there is something they can do to curb bullying in their schools.

"Feeling safe in school is something you deserve," Feldman told students at Homestead Elementary. "It's your right."

The interactive, comedic program teaches students to have empathy and consider other's feelings, that words have power, and methods students can use to stop bullying when they see it happening.

"We don't use terms like victim or bully," Rubenstein said. "We focus on behavior and what bystanders can do to empower students."

Rubenstein, who is a trained actor with a background in education, has been presenting the Box Out Bullying program in schools in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and Tennessee. The Cumberland County visit was funded through federal grant funds.

He began the production company in the fall of 2008, after elementary educators in his home state of Pennsylvania asked him to do something to help with issues of bullying in public schools.

During the program, students learn to recognize bullying, which can be direct, physical, bullying or indirect bullying and peer pressure.

What is bullying? According to the program, it's when a stronger person or group hurts or frightens a less strong person or group again and again.

Rubenstein and Feldman gave students four rules to prevent bullying in their schools.

1. We will not bully others.

2. If we know someone is being bullied, we will try to help.

3. We will try to include students who are left out.

4. If we know someone is being bullied, we will tell someone at school and someone at home. This is not tattle-telling, but letting a grown-up know what is going on — it's an act of courage.

The program is based on a bullying prevention program created by Dr. Dan Olweus, a research-based program, and it includes information on cyberbullying, a growing area of concern for many educators, parents and students.

Tim Claflin, school safety coordinator for Cumberland County, said, "The students are engaged during these programs. It brings the message home about bullying and the Internet. It follows up on a program I did last year, and any time we can get kids to do something about bullying, it's a good thing."

Students and parents are reminded they can contact Claflin with concerns about bullying at school, or other school safety concerns, by calling the hotline, (931) 456-6461.

Claflin said the hotline is confidential and all calls and concerns are investigated.

For more information about Box Out Bullying, visit the Web site, www.boxoutbullying.com.

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