A Westfield family is assisting Westfield Washington Schools’ anti-bullying program by installing eight Buddy Benches in the district. The benches are a safe, bully-free area where students can go to seek assistance from teachers and their peers.
“Our daughter had some issues at school and kind of felt left out and bullied a little bit here and there, so after hearing about the original Buddy Bench we asked (Westfield Intermediate School) Principal (Corey) Hartley if he’d like one here and he was very enthusiastic,” Matt Lutz said. “That night over dinner, Amy and I were talking about, what if we tried to get one into every school? We talked about it more and more and decided to take it district wide.”
The Lutzes met with school officials and walked away with a quick answer.
“It took all of two minutest to make that sale. They were very embracive to the idea,” Lutz said.
The Lutzes, on behalf of Matt’s business, ERA Real Estate Links, paid for and installed benches at all six elementary schools and two on the intermediate school playground.
“We really want to give kids a safe place to go if they feel left out on the playground,” he added. “If they feel bullied, if they feel isolated, lonely, whatever it is. Some kids are afraid to go tell a teacher they have been picked on, but if they go here it’s kind of like raising their hand and saying, ‘I need help’ and maybe that will start the dialogue. If you see somebody there, they are there because they need help, they need a friend.”
All benches are custom made and will include the school’s name engraved in the seat.
“The community has been awesome to us and we wanted to give back,” Lutz said. “The best reward out of all of this is to hopefully see other schools take this idea.”
The Lutzes’ children said the benches are an anonymous way students can share their feelings without telling on others.
“It makes people feel more open to themselves,” said Colby, a seventh-grade student at the middle school.
“I like to help people and care about them. If they feel bad and are outside, I can go help them,” said Cate, a fifth-grader at WIS.
Westfield Washington Schools Supt. Dr. Mark Keen said the benches are a tremendous idea and another way the community and district are partnering together.
“It is a visible way for kids to know there is a safe area to go to,” he said. “It lets teaches and other students know they are in need of a little interaction or counseling.”
Hartley, the school principal, agreed that the benches are a nice addition.
“I appreciate what the family has done for us,” he said. “It’s an easy way for the kiddos who might find it difficult to find someone to play with. … We’re always looking for ways to be proactive, to deter anything of a negative nature.”