No Name-Calling Week Spotlights How Words Can Hurt

The burly student who gets into fist-fights and shoves kids into lockers may be the staple image of the school bully, but often bullies target their victims in much subtler ways – by name calling. Students have been emotionally scarred because of a few simple words that come out of a peer’s mouth,which is why groups are fighting to educate teachers and students on how to properly deal with name-calling during the 8th annual “No Name-Calling Week” from January 23rd to 27th.

No Name-Calling Week (NNCW), created by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing, was inspired from the young-adult novel The Misfits by James Howe. The story tells how four best friends try to survive the jungle known as the seventh grade despite taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. They create a political party in the school known as the No-Name Party, and go onto win a school election, prompting the principal to create a No Name-Calling Day throughout the school.

According to GLSEN spokesperson Andy Marra, the week was designed to not just shed light on the bullying issue for one week, but to provide a catalyst to push the issue into the forefront of school crises.

“We wanted to use this opportunity to spark conversation about name-calling. We see this as a first response, especially with younger kids. Words do hurt and can potentially lead to other bullying problems.”

Along with ways to trigger bullying conversations, the NNCW site has numerous resources, ranging from elementary school to high school projects, that teach students about the serious effects name-calling can have in a fellow student’s life. The goal is not only to raise awareness among teachers and students, but also for both parties to take measures to combat or halt name-calling altogether in their particular schools.

“We are trying to provide schools materials to launch an effort to eliminate bullying in all communities and schools,” said Marra.

NNCW’s website has everything from lesson plans to art projects that students can work on to make them aware of the negative effects of name-calling. Educators can also order a formatted resource packet complete with a copy of The Misfits, an educational video, posters, different sets of curriculum material, and other anti-bullying paraphernalia.

Bullying can generate lower academic performance among students and even scare students into not attending school at all. NNCW is just one way that schools can address the consistent problem of bullying. Doing so does not just encourage students to accept each other, but it has the potential to heighten future student achievement. Events like NNCW remind schools that, although a simple verbal dig at a student may not look like much on the surface, constant abuse can tear a student apart emotionally.

“I believe that it’s vital that we educators can spot and positively police social interactions among young people whenever and wherever they occur on campus,” says Rebecca Mieliwocki, a 7th grade English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank and 2012 California Teacher of the Year.

The week also extends beyond the classroom as it is looking to get support staff, administrators, and parents involved in the process of keeping name-calling out of schools. Sponsors like Barnes & Noble have dubbed January No Name-Calling Month, displaying images of respect between students in their stores and advertising children’s literature that emphasizes the importance of respecting others. The NNCW website also provides ideas such as anti-bullying activities for parents to conduct at home while giving ideas on how to pitch the importance of NNCW to administrators.

“The greatest lesson any of us can teach,”  Mieliwocki adds, “is how to understand, accept, and even celebrate one another, no matter how different someone seems.”

Visit NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign

  • POWERFUL Interview on bullying with Danielle Noel Hawthorne and Cassidy McMillan Director/Writer Award Winning Film Rats and Bullies.

  • The idea of having a “No Name Calling Week” is start for we need to use this event to alert students about the danger of bullying and the damaging affect it has on students’ emotional and physical well-being.

    Research supports the fact that school-based prevention programs can decrease bullying. Schools with the largest reduction in bullying were those that thoroughly and consistently implemented programs using a whole-school approach.

    Let’s be sure that all schools take bullying seriously!

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  • Kevin Elzinga

    The best way to deter bullying is to carefully manage the environment in a school.

    I have worked in environments where bullying was kept to a minimum.

    Peer intervention can be very powerful…IF it is managed correctly. I have seen this work myself in a school for students who have been in trouble with the law.

    If any sort of disruption or bullying occurs in the school or in the classroom, three to five of the students will encircle the situation and address each other…NOT the disruptive students.

    They will ask each other: “Tom, do you support this?” “Dave, do you support this?” etc.

    Often, within seconds, the disruption begins to diminish in intensity.

    Once the situation is calm enough, THEN the group addresses the disruptive students directly.

    “Does there need to be a mediation here?”

    If yes, a couple students from the group will volunteer to take the warring parties aside and into a private room where the disagreement can be worked out in a calm and rational manner.

    There are ALWAYS two or three adults nearby any of these interactions to ensure that the rules of interventions are handled properly and to ensure that the mediations stay civil.

    I have been startled by how effective it can be. It doesn’t always work, but usually these failures occur when a new person arrives on the scene who is not yet familiar with the procedures.

    On the flip side…I have also worked in environments where bullying flourished.

    One of the worst environments for bullying is one in which there are several Dean and Delores Umbridges on the staff.

    I have worked at schools that hired too many of these Deans and Deloreses and they were not pleasant places to work.

    Staff members who yell at kids FREQUENTLY and PUBLICLY… AS A GROUP often make the environment very tense.

    When these staff members also yell at their coworkers publicly, the result can be close to chaos.

    Bullies flourish in an environment of yelling. These bullies often form their own unregulated Inquizatorial Squads to “handle” students that they feel deserve punishment.

    And when a Dean or a Delores gives the silent nod to such behavior, school becomes miserable place for everyone. Sometimes these Inquizatorial Squads will even become brave enough to disobey other staff members.

    Adults who create these wild-west environments, even in just their own domain of work, whether it is the playground or the cafeteria, can create waves throughout the whole school.

    Schools need more adults who are:


    The calm that these adults exude has a very powerful and silent influence on the environment and most kids naturally gravitate towards this calm.

    Screaming banshees only create storms of hostility and disruption.