Editor’s Note: Because of the sometimes sensitive nature of what the Guardians of the Children organization does for children, only the riders’ road names are used in this story.
When counselor Lindsay Fuller started at Curtis Elementary a few years ago, the stack of bullying reports on her desk kept her busy.
“It’s all I dealt with all day long.” she admitted. “The [incidents on the] bus and name calling [were] horrible.”
But ever since Freedom House’s Selma Johnson began taking a curriculum to not only Curtis Elementary and schools within Weatherford ISD but other districts as well to teach students about the affects of bullying and how to combat it, those incidences have decreased significantly.
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“It’s been a good year,” Fuller said. “We only had five reports. It’s awesome.”
Helping Johnson teach those anti-bullying classes are some men and women who may not exactly fit the mold, so to speak. Known as the Steel Horses chapter of Guardians of the Children (GOC), the group consists of motorcycle riders with road names like Big Cat, Cobra, Nasty, Nuke, Scout and Tiggs, and they help not only Johnson with the classes but other children they “adopt” who may be going through abuse or other issues.
On Friday, Johnson (whose road name is Dynamite) celebrated the year’s accomplishments with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Curtis by having each of the riders talk about their own experiences with bullying.
“You’re not a loser and you are of worth,” Johnson reminded the students. “You can be anything you want to be and rise above people who call you names.”
Children oohed and aahed as riders gave their names, especially when Cobra was introduced. But any fear they may have had dissipated when he told his story.
“I was bullied most of my life but I made it through and you will too [if you are being bullied by anyone],” Cobra said. “I got up every morning and looked in the mirror and told myself, ‘I will succeed.’ Never forget, you are special.”
Another rider who received a lot of excitement was Nasty. The reason? Johnson told the students that he was a former professional wrestler.
“A bully is really a coward,” the often shy, now-retired wrestler of 25 years said.
Nasty briefly talked about how he grew up in the 60s, had bad asthma and was sometimes picked on by other kids because he couldn’t run as fast or keep up. He then mentioned that he went to wrestling school for a year before being put in the ring and on TV for the first time.
But the children were even more surprised to learn that Nasty has three degrees and was even more successful outside of the ring. “Whoa!” was the most common reaction and that’s when Johnson reminded everyone that you can’t judge by what you see or what other people say.
“I’m very proud to be associated with these people,” Johnson said. “They are some of the most respectful folks I know.”
Big Cat, who is the Steel Horses chapter vice president, said he was bullied when he walked home from school in the third grade but that when he went home and told his parents about it, the situation was dealt with.
“If this is happening, speak up and tell an adult about it,” he said.
Scout, the chapter’s president, gave the children one last piece of advice before Johnson wrapped up the morning’s assembly.
“Just be nice to each other,” he said. “None of us are perfect but we are all special.”
Later in the day Friday, many members of the Steel Horses chapter were on hand to donate a new refrigerator, microwave oven, printers, a fax machine, various other items and office supplies, along with a $250 check, to the Palo Pinto Children's Alliance Center in Mineral Wells.
“We wanted to assist them as they are fairly new and just had their grand opening a few weeks ago,” Big Cat said.
On its website, GOC says its mission is to “recognize and react to child abuse and educate the public to do the same; to serve as advocates to provide strength and stability to families in crisis; and be an answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support and protection.”