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Amity kids learn about purple hands

Program addresses bullying during Hands and Words month

AMITY — Hands are not for hurting, but they certainly are for hugging, Amity second-graders proved Monday as they swarmed Purple Hands Bear, a giant version of the anti-bullying, anti-violence program mascot.

The bear, 6 feet tall and wearing a red heart on its stomach, visited youngsters just after they recited the Purple Hands Pledge, “I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others.” It waved and bounced and tilted its big purple head, then gave each child a hug.

With Purple Hands Bear as its mascot and a purple hand imprinted with a red heart as its symbol, the program is familiar to a majority of youngsters in Yamhill County. It’s used in most schools and by many local businesses and organizations, as well.

Gretchen Olsen, local promoter of the program, visits schools and other locations in October, which is designated Hands and Words Month as well as Anti-Bullying Month.

She and Purple Hands Bear were at Amity Elementary School this week as part of the school’s anti-bullying week. They both will greet the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Incahoots in McMinnville.

For the second-graders, Olsen explained that abiding by the Hands Are Not for Hurting pledge “helps us be safe and feel safe.”

She pointed out that it hurts just as much when we say bad things to ourselves as when others say them. Then she and students recited together, “From now on, I’m not going to say bad things to others or myself.”

And, again, they followed up with the Purple Hands Pledge, “I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others.”

She and Lauri Anderson, school counselor, demonstrated some techniques for dealing with others who say bad things. Students can change the subject, walk away or tell the bully, “STOP!”

In addition to taking the pledge and learning anti-bullying techniques from Olsen, many Amity youngsters met with local police officer James Clark. He talked about his own experiences being bullied as a student at Amity Elementary, more than two decades ago.

“I had a medical condition that made me talk funny,” he told a group of fourth- and fifth-graders. “Every day, two boys bullied me. They said things like ‘you talk funny,’ and ‘you talk like a girl.’ That hurt. It made me not want to go out to recess, or even come to school.”

He kept attendingclasses, though, and eventually fulfilled his dream of becoming a policeman. He urged students to focus on their studies, as well, because reading and writing and other skills they learn will be important in realizing their dreams.

Clark also explained the real-world consequences of bullying, which police call harassment, as well as stealing and criminal mischief, or vandalism. Doing any of those things at school could get you sent to the principal’s office or kept after class, he said. Doing them outside school could get you fined hundreds of dollars or locked up in jail.

When students arrived for Clark’s presentation, the officer was dressed in disguise: A white lab coat, funny glasses and a wild white wig. As he removed the costume and revealed his Amity Police uniform, he asked students, “Am I different? Or am I the same person underneath?”

The demonstration reminded children not to judge people by their appearance, but by what they’re like inside. “Get to know the person,” he said. “Don’t pick on ‘em.”

Amity kids learn about purple hands

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