KGUN 9News


"Friendship benches" help battle bullying on the playground

Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 07:24:47-05

For many students at Painted Sky Elementary School, recess time is the best time of their day.

Students play with classmates and are allowed to enjoy free time, but that isn't the case for some students.
Wendy Biallas Odell, Principal of Painted Sky, tells KGUN 9 that last year they noticed some students who weren't enjoying recess.
"Students were wandering around the playground and not having anyone to play with, or they were sad," says Odell. 
Teachers soon realized this behavior was driving students to tag-a-long with recess monitors. But monitors wanted students to play with students their age and most importantly, make new friends. 
And that is where the idea of "friendship benches" was born.
Friendship benches are used when students are having a bad day, or they come to the playground with no one to play with.
Odell told KGUN 9 News reporter Jennifer Martinez there are several reasons why the benches are used.
When students aren't feeling 100%, they sit on these benches and students like Allie Loren come in and help make their day better by asking them questions. 
Loren says she remembers one instance where a girl was sitting on the bench, so she went over to her.
"I went over to her and sat right next to her," says Loren.  "I asked her, what's wrong?"
While the student sitting on the bench was shy and barely spoke, Loren continued to ask her what was going on.
"I asked her, are you lonely? Do you have no one to play with?"
Once the girl shrugged and agreed, Loren invited her to play with her friends to make sure she was playing with someone on the playground.
Madi Schantz, another leader at the school says the benches are important to have.
"Anyone who was a bully at one time can see that it hurts people and this bench is a way to figure out that it hurts people," Schantz continues. 
While other schools in the district don't have benches in their playground , they use different tactics to stop bullying. 
Holway Elementary implemented "Kind Coyotes."
For each grade, they have two young coyotes on the playground ready to solve problems. 
Kim Moran is the brains behind the movement, and says, "It teaches all our friends on the playground emotional intelligence, understanding how to express their feelings and solve problems."
The Kind Coyotes give up their recess to help others on their playground. They wear bright yellow vests and carry clipboards with different scenarios on how they can solve situation that comes their way. 
Third grader, Ariez Martinez has devoted his free time for the past three years to make sure students on the playground don't feel left behind or bullied. 
While this not a district-wide effort, most principals support the anti-bullying programs. 
Students raised funds to have benches installed and right now Holaway Elementary is raising funds to get their benches. 
If you would like to donate, you can call 520-696-6880 and ask for principal, Mr. Gutierrez.