Matthew Parry is nine years old, and just might have more compassion than anyone you've ever met. Here's the story of how Matthew stopped bullying in its tracks — and how President Obama heard about it.
Whenever you bring hundreds of youngsters together, you're apt to find some teasing and name calling. (Yes, even at Explo.) Prevention is the name of the game, but when it happens, how people respond is crucial.
At Explo, we teach our students and faculty to confront, name, and address negative behavior. We are constantly working to create a safe and supportive environment for all students. Therefore, we are particularly thrilled to hear that an Explo student was recently commended by President Obama for his efforts to stop bullying at his school.
Meet Matthew Parry, as he talks about how he stopped a group of friends from bullying a fellow student.
“So, one day, around lunchtime,” Matthew says, “I saw my friends making gestures that were not friendly gestures. And I saw that they were making fun of another friend I had. We were all sitting at the same lunch table, and I told my friends that what they were doing was bullying. I told them to stop and that it wasn’t nice, and my teacher heard what I said. And then later that night, my parents got an email from my teacher.”
Caroline Parry, Matthew's mother, was worried that his kindness would have consequences.
“I was nervous that there would be repercussions against Mathew [for speaking out],” Mrs. Parry says, “but his teacher reassured me that wasn’t the case. In the email, he says he’s ‘never been prouder of the courage of a student of mine has displayed in regard to standing up for another student.’”
Sitting in their beautiful, light-filled living room, Matthew and his mother begin to relay aspects of a tradition that they’ve had since Matthew was old enough to understand.
Talking About Bullying
“It started with my parents,” Matthew says. “We talk all the time about what’s bullying and what is not, and if you’re ever in a situation like this, what you should do. I learned more at school and at Explo, and also, I learned from a clip from TV, where they put labels on each other’s backs and they treated each other like that stereotype. I learned that labels can be another form of bullying, and I connected that with what my friends were doing. So I told them to stop because I figured out that that was bullying.”
Bullying, in its many forms, is something Matthew and his parents talk about regularly. They want to make sure if it does happen, that Matthew is prepared.
“My mom told me that if you’re ever in a situation where they’re bullying you,” Matthew says, “first you should tell them to stop. And if that doesn’t work, you should try to get a teacher involved. So, at that point, I didn’t know that a teacher was going to get involved, but my instincts just kind of told me, this isn’t me, but if I was [the student being bullied], what would I do? So I told them to stop. And I was wondering, would my friend have told them to stop or would he have let it slide, and I think that he probably wouldn’t have told them to stop. He kind of gets bullied regularly, so sometimes, I’m just thinking that they’ve bullied him many times before. Now I think they’ve done it too many times and they crossed the line. And now they’ve stopped doing it.”
A Letter from the White House
“They have the stopbullying.gov campaign,” Mrs. Parry says, “and I went to the government website and wrote in what happened. I was proud of him and thought maybe it’ll go up on the website or something. So that was the extent of it until one day, my husband said, there’s a package from the White House. So I rushed home and opened it up, not even knowing what would be in it.”
“We’ve gotten some joke letters in the past that say they’re from the White House,” Matthew says, “so when we opened it up and I saw it really was from the White House, I ran upstairs and grabbed as many electronics as I could and started snapping pictures of everything inside it.”
The plan, Matthew says, is to display it in his room next to his soccer medals.
“We’re certainly proud of this,” Mrs. Parry says, “because it goes to his character, which is something we talk about all the time, and how important it is. You may be good in one class, you may not be so good in another, and you may have certain talents…”
“We had that talk today,” Matthew says.
“That’s right,” Mrs. Parry says, “we did talk about that today. And just that your character is going to define who you are as a human being, and I think he’s already started to define that.”