With today’s focus on preventing bullying, the Pizza Factory Corporation has been reaching out to local schools to help bring students together in a positive, supportive way by giving schools a “No Bully Zone” bench.

With today’s focus on preventing bullying, the Pizza Factory Corporation has been reaching out to local schools to help bring students together in a positive, supportive way by giving schools a “No Bully Zone” bench.

Last Wednesday, both Castle Rock Elementary School and Dunsmuir Elementary School were presented with one of these benches. In an assembly at each school, students were given bracelets to remind them to be an awesome friend and help classmates to feel that they belong. Each bracelet is inscribed with the words “Be Friends. Be Cool. Be Awesome.”

The benches give children a place to go for a timeout in a positive manner to receive support from others. Inscribed with the words “No Bully Zone,” along with a peace sign and “Friends are Awesome,” gives a troubled or sad child a place to sit, inviting others to come and interact with them.

This concept was introduced by Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva along with Dunsmuir Pizza Factory Owner Jeanne Rogers. In the past three years, Riva and other Pizza Factory restaurant owners have placed 57 benches at schools near their 107 restaurants. Their next bench will be at Shasta Lake City Elementary.

Riva, from the Pizza Factory headquarters out of Oakhurst, talked to the children about how to deal with being mad.

“Choose your words. Words can hurt. What you say to somebody can last a lifetime. Be that person to help your classmates,” Riva said. She had the students chant, “Be awesome!”

“Bullying has become so prevalent,” said Riva. “Our stores are family-oriented. We see it (bullying) not only with kids but adults and thought of taking it a different way: Friends are awesome and for kids to understand that their words can affect people. Our mission statement is ‘Being awesome’ is the model for our community.”

Even in a close-knit community like Dunsmuir, Rogers said that she has seen bullying in the past in her store.

“We are keeping the bench on the playground where it is easily accessible,” said Castle Rock Elementary School Principal Autumn Funk. “We will role play in our classrooms to encourage communication and to help their classmates when they need it. We are so grateful for this opportunity; it will be a wonderful tool for our students.”

Dunsmuir Elementary School is replacing their discipline bench with the “No Bully Zone” bench.

“This goes along with this year’s Restorative Practice that the entire staff has had training in,” said DES Principal Susan Keeler. “Restorative Practice is how to talk with others who are having conflicts and having them understand how they’ve been harmed. All students in fifth through eighth grades will take the three-day peer conflict management course to become conflict managers. They learn how to talk through their problems with others instead of inhouse discipline. This (bully bench) fits in perfectly.”