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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff joins students in standing against bullies

Published: Thursday, April 26 2012 4:12 p.m. MDT

Aranza Pedraza, left, Betsy Metcalf, Koral Rosales and Kennedi Taylor say nice things about each other as Attorney General Mark Shurtleff makes an anti-bullying video at Woodstock Elementary School in Murray, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

MURRAY — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and a class of fourth-grade students took a stand against bullying Wednesday, rehearsing for an upcoming national rally.

Shurtleff visited Tracee Gallegos' students at Woodstock Elementary to film a video encouraging students and educators to take part in next Friday's Stand4Change Against Bullying Day. The video will be posted online in preparation of the event on May 4 when, at 10 a.m., participating students and teachers in Utah will join millions across the nation in showing their commitment against bullying by stopping what they're doing, standing at their desks and complimenting those around them.

"These kids know bullying," Shurtleff said. "They've seen it, they've experienced it themselves and, frankly, some of them are bullies."

Before filming the video, Shurtleff chatted with students about the dangers of bullying and told them they can help by first being kind to each other. He said that bullying has only worsened in the Internet age, with social media websites allowing children to be targeted even while at home. 

While cyber-bullying is a relatively new problem, Shurtleff said that bullying has been around forever and even shared some of his own schoolyard experiences.

"I'm a big guy now but when I was in elementary I was a little guy," he said. "I got beat up."

He emphasized to students that retaliation against threats and violence is never the answer and that they should feel safe speaking up to their teachers when they see people being bullied. Shurtleff said that one out of every seven students in the country has either been bullied or is a bully themselves, and that every day, 160,000 students stay home from school out of fear of being bullied. 

Gallegos' students were excited to be a part of the video, leaping out of their chairs at Shurtleff's direction and screaming the event slogan "Stand for change." After filming the video, the children practiced complimenting each other, giving praise for things like outfits and sense of humor.

Evelyn Pereira, a student at Woodstock Elementary, said she has seen bullying at her school. She thinks the Stand4Change event will help students to speak up to adults when they see things happening.

"I think it's wrong," she said. "People lose their self-esteem and their confidence and it just gets worse and it turns into something bad you can't fix."

Stand4Change was created by Kevin Kragen, who organized the "Hands Across America" event in 1996, in which more than 6 million people held hands to raise funds to fight hunger and homelessness.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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