Two Southern California boys are hoping to reverse the bullying and loneliness that plagues elementary schools by adding a bench to their playground -- but it's no ordinary bench.
Dylan Tibbetts, 9, and Darren Dyberg, 10, want to install a buddy bench at the Promenade Elementary School in Corona as a way to help lonely children find a playmate during recess.
The boys became obsessed with the idea of getting a buddy bench when Dylan's father, Mark Tibbetts, showed them an NBC4 News report about a Colorado boy who put a buddy bench in his school playground.
Dylan, a third-grader, and Darren, a fourth-grader, marched into their school principal's office with a hand-written proposal for a bench they hoped would foster friendship.
Promenade Elementary School Principal Lori Copeland hadn’t heard of such a thing prior to the boys’ mention, but she decided to give it a go.
Copeland forwarded the proposal to the student council liaison. The teacher leader is currently trying to arrange a time for the boys to explain how a buddy bench would operate on Promenade’s playground to the student council.
After consulting Copeland without the boys' knowledge, Mark approached Home Depot in Corona. The home improvement store plans to donate and install two buddy benches – one for the kindergarten playground and another for the regular playground.
The management team met with the boys on Wednesday to talk business.
Denise Nelson, the district manager, is hoping to have the bench completed before Promenade’s school year ends in early June. She plans to visit the school grounds soon to iron out the specifics with Copeland.
The buddy benches will bear the school’s colors, blue and white. A plaque will be placed on each bench bearing the donor’s name (Home Depot) in addition to the boys who envisioned it in the first place – Dylan and Darren.
Copeland hopes that the buddy benches "will increase friendships and the desire to be helpful to one another, and reduce the number of students that feel isolated, picked on and bullied."
Similarly, Mark, who is a PE teacher in another school district, said he sees loneliness and bullying first hand. When he witnesses this type of behavior among his students, he addresses the situation. But what bothers him the most is what he doesn’t see.
He hopes that the implementation of the buddy bench will teach Dylan and his classmates to be "more acutely aware that bullying exists." He said it will serve as a wakeup call to the kids, bullies and playground supervisors that bullying and feeling ostracized by classmates are serious problems.
"It’s not going to solve these problems, but it’s certainly going to help," Tibbetts said.
Buddy benches have also been installed in Colorado, Pennsylvania and overseas in Germany for students who feel excluded during recess.