Buddy benches battle bullying

Now even benches can help battle schoolyard bullying.

With the materials purchased, ordered and shipped on their way to town sometime next week, Scotts Ridge eighth grader Nathan Pereyra waits to install Buddy Benches in three of Ridgefield’s six elementary schools in an effort to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground.

“If kids can make friends on the Buddy Bench, then they can have someone to turn to and go to when they feel hurt or when they feel alone,” Nathan said. “It hurts to be called names and to be teased, especially when you don’t know who it is.”

When a student feels isolated and sits on the bench, the goal is for others student to approach him or her and ask to play, talk or walk.

Nathan has been doing research on bullying and different prevention methods against it as part of his Civil Action Project, which started back in January.

He originally came up with three topics for his project — cancer, homelessness, and bullying — and selected bullying because he experienced it firsthand in elementary school.

“I didn’t have a personal connection with the other two topics like I did with bullying,” he said. “I’ve gone through it, and I know a lot of people are still going through it today because the Internet exists, and that’s created different forms of bullying.”

The rise of social media over the last five years has generated yet another arm for the persistent and ever-changing “bully” — the person responsible for intimidating and tormenting — to swing at others.

And unlike those who bullied Nathan in the second grade, today’s bully can operate completely anonymously, without fear of accountability.

“The schools monitor social media and we’ve had talks about it, but there’s so many kids with Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram that it’s too easy to make hurt hurtful comments and get away with it,” he said.

While the digital playground has become an area of emphasis for antibullying movements nationwide, Nathan believes there’s a lot that can still be done to improve face-to-face playground interaction.

That’s where he was first victimized before the bullying carried over to the classroom.

“I have long hair, and what started out as playground teasing with kids touching and swiping at my hair quickly became a real distraction in class,” he recalled. “I didn’t like it and it was really upsetting; all I wanted was for it to stop.”

As part of his project, Nathan had to write a research paper and do a community project.

When searching for different ideas online, he came across Christian’s Buddy Bench, which was started by a second grader named Christian Bucks in York, Pa.

“The idea is going around the country,” Nathan said. “It’s gaining a lot of momentum. …

“I got the idea approved by my social studies teacher and wrote all six elementary school principals about the project,” he said. “I wanted to give something back to the community that was different than just raising money for those in need.”

Although strictly designed for elementary schools, he believes the concept can be carried over to the middle schools and the high school.

He raised even more than the $1,200 he planned to use for materials and building the benches in a fund-raiser contest last week.

He plans to donate the extra funds to antibullying organizations or other schools in need.

Despite the overage, he would like to continue to raise fund even after the benches are installed at Scotland, Veterans Park and Ridgebury.

“Scotland is going to be first. I’ve talked with principal Mark Solomon already and we have picked out a spot where the bench will go near the basketball courts,” Nathan said. “Scotland will cost about $400 and it will have the school colors.

“All three will look alike but will be different in their colors, and each school’s name will be on the front,” he said.

There will also be a plaque on the back with a special quote about friendship.

In addition to putting together the parts and cementing the benches into the three playgrounds, he will make posters for each of the schools that explains the Buddy Bench concept and what to do with it.

Ridgefield Parks and Recreation will make sure the benches are safe before Nathan personally installs them.

He aims to have the project done by early June, when the CAP fair will be held at Scotts Ridge.

“The lumber is plastic-based, actually, so there’s no chance for any splinters,” he said. “Other than that, it’s just putting together the metal frame, cementing that base and installing the plaque on the back.”

Heading off to the high school next year, Nathan hopes to continue raising awareness about bullying and formulating new ideas for how to prevent it from taking place in Ridgefield.

“If they have student organizations at the high school, I’d like to get involved,” he said.

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  • Mewwill

    Fab idea! we’ve had buddy benches for years in the UK, glad they are catching on over here!

  • Mewwill

    Fab idea! we’ve had Buddy benches in the UK for a few years now, glad they are taking off here too!

  • Mewwill

    Great idea, we’ve been doing this in the UK for years, glad it’s being used over here at last.

  • Henry Glawson

    Wait, just to make sure I understood correctly- you’ve had buddy benches in the UK for years, and you’re glad they’re catching on, right?

    • Mewwill

      haha!! I wrote the one post, it never showed up! so I wrote it again the next day, again no sign of it!! now there’s three and I can’t delete any of them (it just turns them into guest quotes!!) I didn’t realise it took so long for a quote to be authorised!! So yes I’m delighted they’re catching on over here 🙂

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