Name-calling has been prevalent on school campuses for many years, but a movement is under way at Merced, Atwater and Livingston high schools to discourage that harmful practice.
As part of the Merced Union High School District's Character Counts program, students observed National No Name- Calling Week last week and this week with various activities.
Lead teachers say they believe students are taking the message to heart and that incidents of name-calling will decline.
These days name-calling often is manifested in text messages and on social media, particularly Facebook, Buhach Colony High School teacher-librarian Julie Cook said.
"It's definitely a problem," Cook said, "but more light is being shed on the effects of name-calling and bullying. It's good they are calling attention to it and trying to put a stop to it."
The district's lead teacher for Character Counts, Annette Brown, said it's up to everyone to create a positive, peaceful climate at schools.
To remind students that name-calling is a choice and they have the power to end it, Character Counts lead teachers and activity directors worked together to engage students.
Cook said leadership students at Buhach Colony High School took a lead role in the no name-calling campaign this year. In conversations with students, she said, she senses a genuine understanding why it's important not to label others.
"It's gone really well here," Cook said. "Teachers brought whole classes to the student body office to sign posters."
Susan Mahacek, lead Character Counts teacher and master teacher at Independence High School, said her students focused on gossip and judging of others.
"Students are genuinely interested in participating in this activity," Mahacek said. "It is wonderful to work with young people who treat others with respect. Putting an end to gossip and not judging others were topics that were discussed.
"Many of our students are involved in community service, and it is rewarding to watch the positive impact they have in our school and our community."
Haydee Arreola, activities director at Merced High School, said Link Crew students collected no name-calling pledges. She said she was impressed that leadership students were recruiting other students for pledges rather than teachers and that the program will be repeated next year.
"It's not just a one-time thing," Arreola said. "Throughout the year it's something that will continue on. Because of all the technology, we see a lot of it on Facebook and social media. Overall, they (students) like the idea. For the way we live in society, you see lots of bullying in school or online."
Brown said that in the past four years at Buhach Colony High School, getting students to sign individual pledge sheets and posting them in visible areas has become such a tradition that some teachers make it part of the curriculum.
Teachers across the district have been supplied with various types of instructional materials that encourage reflection and promote kindness, Brown said.
At Atwater High, students took part in "We're All Different Alike" lessons in their homerooms, where differences are honored rather than ridiculed.
At Golden Valley, teachers were asked to share a short student-generated video on the sometimes devastating effects of name-calling. Activities director Austin Worden incorporated the no name-calling activities with the Mr. GV Pageant, and its contestants ended their speeches with "Keep it Kind" admonitions.
Many classrooms had "Free Compliments" tear-off sheets that students were encouraged to use and to share kind words with others.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.