BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- A high school senior wants to end bullying in his school district. The twist, he tells WSAZ.com, he used to be a bully himself.
Scott Callahan spoke Friday to Boyd County Middle School students as part of his "Stand Up" anti-bullying seminar. The idea is that teaching eighth- and ninth-grade students to stop bullying will eliminate it completely from the school by the time these students are juniors and seniors.
Callahan said he calls the seminar "Stand Up" because the phrase is commonly used by kids who are fighting or bullying others, just like he did.
"Just stand up," Callahan said. "You hear that all the time in a kid who wants to fight."
That phrase has now become not only his rallying cry, but a method to protect students from bullying. He demonstrated to students that physically standing up and standing behind someone who is being bullied can be a crucial move.
"When you stand behind somebody, you don't only tell the bully that there's no reason to bully, you tell that person that's just standing there that they've got somebody that's got their back," Callahan told WSAZ.com. "Somebody [...] cares about them enough to do that, [to] put themselves out there to stand behind you. That changes peoples lives."
Callahan asked his eighth-grade audience to write down the name of their best friend on a sheet of paper. Then he requested that they crumple the paper into a ball, and then try to flatten it out again. They couldn't. That, Callahan said, represented the damage done by bullying and saying negative things.
"You can make a friendship back to what it was, right? Make the shape of it?" he asked students. "But can you delete the wrinkles? You can't."
Callahan reminded the eighth-graders that he was in their position only a few years ago. One student said both that fact and that Callahan was a bully himself meant that the class took him seriously. In contrast, she said, adults can't always give relatable advice.
"They tell you that you shouldn't retaliate with it, you shouldn't fight back, you shouldn't react to it, you should turn around and walk away," eighth-grader Cassie Bailey said, noting that the advice doesn't work when bullying is ongoing and not just a one-time event.
Callahan said one of his goals is to make Boyd County the first bully-free school.
"When [a] person starts bullying, you go up to them -- you're not a jerk, you're not mean -- you go up to them and tap them and say, 'Hey, we don't do that here,'" Callahan said.
He hopes to bring his program into schools across the state of Kentucky and eventually across the U.S. to help students stand up for themselves and for others.
Callahan will enter basic training after he graduates from Boyd County High School in June. He plans to study at Morehead when he begins college.