No one wants to eat alone, especially in a cafeteria full of middle school students.
But sometimes students aren’t given a choice. They’re subjected to a form of bullying called social isolation.
To reduce this, D’Iberville Middle School, along with more than 2,000 schools across the country, participated in National No One Eats Alone Day on Thursday. The day was started by a California-based nonprofit called Beyond Differences to combat social isolation in middle school.
That form of bullying can have a negative effect on a student’s health and academic performance, said Mary Anna McDonnieal, the director of marketing for Magnolia Health, which co-sponsored the day in D’Iberville.
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The idea is to teach everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day, according to the Beyond Difference website.
On their way to lunch, D’Iberville students each picked a colored bracelet out of a box as they entered the cafeteria. Inside, the students had to sit — away from the familiarity of their friends — in the area designated for their bracelet color. The exercise was meant to get the students to get to know other students they wouldn’t normally talk to.
Students took a little while to warm up to the cafeteria exercise, but in the end, kids are kids, Assistant Principal Jody Grimes said.
“It’s taken awhile for some of them, but a lot of kids will end up talking to a wall if they had to,” Grimes said. “It’s for them to find something in common with one another. To learn there are more similarities than differences.”
The school has been instructing both teachers and students on creative ways to prevent isolation, and on anti-bullying tactics.
“Our teachers have been working with the students all week , teaching them the importance of including everyone and giving them recommendations on how to start conversations with people they don’t know,” Grimes said.
Officials with Magnolia Health also gave the students anti-bullying instructional booklets.