CAPAC — It’s a simple request. A Capac Middle School student is asking his peers to “Be Kind.”
As a part of an anti-bullying campaign developed by sixth-grader Russell Bellhorn, students and staff have started passing out “Be Kind” pins to encourage friendlier behavior.
After reciting “I promise to be kind and respect others,” students and teachers receive a pin made by Russell, 12, of Richmond and his mother.
Students have the choice to take the pledge or not — and although some have opted out, the campaign has given many others a chance to speak out.
Russell, who has an autism spectrum disorder, said dealing with bullies at school made him dislike being there. Earlier in the year, Russell collected more than 200 student signatures on a petition to “ban school” forever.
Although the idea of banning school got many students on board, there still were those who mocked him — as Russell’s petition was ripped in half by a classmate at recess.
Friends and school staff have helped Russell turn his negative emotions about school into a positive campaign to confront the bullies.
Principal Matt Drake said he helped Russell start the pin campaign two weeks ago. After passing out 100 pins to several classrooms, curiosity about the project grew — and Russell and his mom found themselves making more pins each night.
“Bullying is always something we’re dealing with,” Drake said. “It’s still the same as 10 years ago; we’re just addressing it differently.”
Many students look to Kaycee Miller, 12, of Capac as Russell’s biggest supporter in the campaign. Always with an encouraging word, Kaycee said she helps Russell if he’s being picked on.
“He’s a good kid,” Kaycee said matter-of-factly.
Russell said he hopes the pins promote a better atmosphere at the school and keep the bullies from becoming “crooks.”
“Be kind, because words can hurt,” Russell said.
Drake said he hopes to continue the pin campaign through the end of the year. He’s planning to make it easier for students to show their support by supplying wristbands — instead of pins — with the same message next week.
Victoria Congdon, 12, of Capac said she sympathized with Russell after she was bullied.
“He’s a good person,” Victoria said. “Why should he be getting bullied?”