Ashley Craig gives new meaning to the saying, “out of the mouths of babes.” The 15-year-old High Point High School freshman, and daughter of Jefferson Township police chief Kevin Craig, spearheaded an anti-bullying program that has now been implemented at her school. Students Against Being Bullied (SABB) was born after Craig experienced a bout of bullying of her own when she was in seventh grade. Craig told her story at a meeting of the Jefferson Township Municipal Alliance Committee (JTMAC).
“I was bullied when I was in the seventh grade by a group of five older boys,” she said. “It went on for four or five months.
“I was lucky, because I had a family to talk to. I had friends to lean on. I had teachers to talk to. Not everyone is that lucky. Not every student has what I have,” she said.
Then, when she was in eighth grade, a friend of Craig’s admitted to her that he was planning to end his life.
“He said, ‘No one likes me, I don’t fit in, I don’t belong here’,” Craig said. “I told a counselor and told her about my friend. He was mad at me for a while, but later he told me I saved his life. It was then I realized that if I could do it for one person, I could do it for a lot more.”
And so, SABB was born.
The first segment of the program has three parts, a support line, a support group and a safe room.
The support line is a phone line that students can call or text if they feel the need to talk.
“There are posters in the bathrooms with the number on them,” Craig said. “If a student feels threatened, he or she can go to the bathroom and text the number. The guidance office and principal have phones and they will get the text and help with the problem.”
In addition, SABB has contracted with a hotline service, Second Floor, that will answer calls for the time that personnel are not in school.
The SABB support group meets twice a month and allows students to talk about what’s happening at school.
The safe room is one specific room in school that is open before classes start each morning where students can go if they don’t feel comfortable in the hallway.
“I go to the safe room every morning from when I get to school until the bell rings at 7:35, “ Craig said. “There is also an adult in the room, so that bullies can’t come in and decide who they want to pick on that day.”
The next part of the program consists of interactive programs involving the whole school.
“I’ve done a presentation in front of the whole student body,” Craig said.
As far as program costs, Craig said the only real expense was the cell phones that the office holds to accept texts from students.
“We worked out a deal with Verizon, where each phone costs $25 per month for the service, and we got the phones for free,” she said.
Now that SABB is working successfully at High Point, Craig has plans to take the program to the next step.
“Part of my dream was just to get the program into my school, where I could impact close to 1200 students. Now, the more I see it happening in my school the more I want it to go further.
Now my dream is to have High Point be a flagship school. Now I want it in schools across New Jersey and the nation,” she said.
Jefferson Township councilwoman Debi Merz, head of JTMAC, said that the committee is in a financial position to fund the program in the Jefferson schools.
“We want to talk to the school and get them on board with the program,” Merz said.