Henley students get "Step Up!" bystander intervention training

CROZET, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The Gordie Center at the University of Virginia brought its Step Up! program to Henley Middle School on Friday to teach the importance of bystander intervention and what to do if students see something they feel is wrong.

Henley was the first middle school in the country to receive this training.

Gabriel Tarver and Jack Hathaway, both sixth graders, are two of the 900 Henley Middle School students who were trained. They said this training has been needed.

"I've been seeing lots of bullying at my old school and this school," said Hathaway.

"I feel like that's kind of a big deal in our grade," said Tarver. "A lot of kids are bullied and sometimes people just sit there and watch."

The Gordie Center typically visits high schools and colleges to prevent hazing through bystander education. Susie Bruce, director of the Gordie Center at UVA, said teaching kids at a younger age is just as important.

"We decided to simplify the concepts, so we focused more on bullying than other issues," said Bruce. "The younger we can work with students to learn these skills, the many, many problems that we prevent at the college level."

Beth Costa, principal of Henley Middle, said this training is part of an ongoing effort to stop bullying. She said staff tries to intervene when they can, but they cannot catch everything.

"We were worried that we were missing things because of our size and we can't be every place and everywhere," said Costa. "And so we felt like giving our kids the tools and strategies was the next step because they can now help us and they now feel empowered to step in when they see something that's wrong or that they're uncomfortable with."

Tarver said because of the training, he wants to work on not being a bully himself even if he does not mean to be.

"Me personally, when I do something wrong and someone talks to me about it, not knowing that I did something wrong, I feel like I want to improve on that," he said.

Hathaway said he learned to not be afraid to help.

"I would go straight to help the kid, and tell the other kids to stop," said Hathaway.

One thing that was taught was to not be afraid to reach out to victims even if the situation has passed. It will help them not feel alone.

The Gordie Center hopes to continue to teach younger students how to Step Up! and help others.

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