2014 Hero Award Recipients

Being an "upstander" rather than a "bystander" in bullying situations requires courage and risk, but individuals or groups who take the initiative to be "upstanders" – those people whom we describe as Anti-Bullying Heroes--become an impetus for change in schools and communities. Four Hero Awards were presented at Auburn University's Fourth Annual National Anti-Bullying Summit, June 26-27, 2014 in Peachtree City, Georgia. The Summit is sponsored by Auburn's Office of Professional and Continuing Education and by the Truman Pierce Institute in the College of Education.

 Felicia SimpsonFelicia Simpson, School-Based Leader
Community Education Coordinator
Gadsden City Schools
Gadsden, Alabama

After attending a national conference in Washington, DC hosted by Safe and Drug Free Schools, and learning about the destructive impact of bullying in schools, Ms. Felicia Simpson determined to develop anti-bullying initiatives in her Gadsden, Alabama community. Bulling statistics indicate that about 1 out of every 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a bullying victim. Ms. Simpson developed a multi-faceted plan, established a committee, scheduled trainings, and found sponsors for a community-wide anti-bullying rally, held at Gadsden’s Convention Hall and attended by over 1,300 people in 2011. Nationally recognized guest speakers for the first rally were Tina Meiers and Kirk Smalley, both of whom lost their children due to suicide as a result of bullying. In subsequent years, she has spearheaded two additional successful rallies, building partnerships with the local Rotary Club, United Way, Family Success Center, and Gadsden 21st Century School programs. She has made presentations throughout the state, helping other communities and school systems develop similar initiatives. As a result of her commitment, teachers have become more watchful over interactions between students, parents have become better educated, counselors are receiving additional training on bullying prevention, and students are willing to take a stand against bullying because they have formed a group with the same purpose: "Defeat Bullying."

Dequadray WhiteMr. Dequadray White, Student Leader
Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta/Jesse Draper Boys and Girls Club
College Park, Georgia

During 2012, Dequadray White noticed the harsh and unfair treatment that other youth were enduring as a result of bullying by their peers, and he remembered his own humiliating experiences of being bullied. To bring attention to this issue, Dequadray wrote, cast, and directed an original production entitled No Nonsense featuring a cast of approximately 20 young actors performed at the Jesse Draper Boys & Girls Club in College Park, Georgia. The play examines bullying from the perspectives of several typical high school cliques: "jocks", "nerds", and "the plastics" (vanity-driven popular girls). In the play, a teen aged girl is tormented by the leader of the popular girl clique, but ultimately the students rally for change after watching their peer endure sustained mistreatment. No Nonsense has sparked conversations surrounding bullying among members of varying ages in the community, who have decided that they would no longer be silent bystanders. Dequadray dedicates a large percentage of his out-of-school time working with younger members of the Jesse Draper Boys & Girls Club and of the community to address bullying and he was nominated for this award by the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. Dequadray has served as Project Director for the Keystone National Project: "Help Wanted", a multi-media project addressing Teen Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention. He has led several service initiatives in his club including the "Stuff the Bus" campaign for the homeless, food drives and Zumba parties to encourage healthy lifestyles. He has recently been elected as the President of his Keystone Club, a club focused on teen service and leadership. Dequadray is a sophomore at Tri-Cities High School Art Magnet program and plans to pursue a college major in Illustration and/or Art Therapy.

Joseph JonesDr. Joseph Jones, University-Based Leader
Professor, Tift College of Education, Mercer University
Macon, Georgia

Dr. Joseph Jones, currently a faculty member in the Teacher Education program at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, has devoted his academic career to studying and trying to eradicate bullying in schools. His doctoral work focused on homophobia and bullying, leading to numerous articles and presentations throughout the country on this topic. While teaching at a university in Virginia, Dr. Jones developed a county-wide initiative, in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, for implementation in the local k-12 school district to help combat cullying. "Communities Against Bullying", or CAB, has been installed in the school district along with the program mascot, Cabbie the Coyote, as an education tool against bullying and has become a model for adoption by other school systems. Dr. Jones' book Bullying in Schools: A Professional Development for Educators was published in 2012 as a structured guide for educators to use in establishing a bully-free classroom. Dr. Jones has also produced two documentaries dealing with homophobia and bullying. The second, "And You and You and You", includes interviews with college students and personnel who have dealt with homophobia or bullying.

Gerald GriggsMr. Gerald Griggs, Community Leader
DeKalb County, Georgia

Attorney Gerald Griggs has worked for many years providing anti-bullying advocacy and education throughout the United States, from his base in Decatur, Georgia. In 2011, he was a featured speaker at the second annual National Federal Partners in Bullying Summit in Washington D.C. For the past three years, he has visited Metro Atlanta School Systems with the Hot 107.9 "Bullying is not Hot" Tour, spreading the anti-bullying message. In 2009, following a high profile case in which a bullied student committed suicide, Mr. Griggs began to lobby the Georgia General Assembly to strengthen Georgia's Bullying law. With support from state senator Mike Jacobs and other legislative advocates, Georgia’s Anti-bullying law was changed in 2011 to include all primary grades, age appropriate sanctions, and transfer of students after a third bullying incident. This made Georgia’s Anti-Bullying law one of the toughtest in the nation at that point. Mr. Griggs has hosted town hall meetings and has appeared on local and national radio shows to discuss the need for anti-bullying initiatives and victim advocacy. He also educates students about their rights about how not to be a bystander but to uplift the victim and stop the bully.

Last Updated: July 11, 2014