CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the packed gymnasium at Point Harmony Elementary School in Cross Lanes, hundreds of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students sat cross-legged on the floor for a surprise assembly. The subject: School bullying.
Anti-bullying talks can be fairly humdrum, so school officials decided to jazz up Friday's event by having local celebrities deliver the message.
The hundreds of students erupted into shrieks of joy as Pat White, a professional athlete and former star quarterback at West Virginia University, and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., crooner and winner of the NBC reality show "America's Got Talent," strode into the gym Friday afternoon to use their stardom to shed light on the serious problem.
"How many of you have ever been bullied?" Murphy asked the students.
Hundreds of hands shot up.
"Did any of you like it?"
Students shook their heads.
"That's it right there," said Murphy. "Treat other people with the same respect and kindness you want them to show you."
The sea of students at Point Harmony might not seem like a dangerous bunch, but hundreds of thousands of students throughout the nation have been victims -- and perpetrators -- of often-vicious student bullying.
"Bullying is running rampant, and if I can help to stop any of that, I'm going to do it," White said. "If we can talk to students early, then maybe we can nip it in the bud."
In late March, Dalton Walker, a sixth-grader at Princeton Middle School in Mercer County, killed himself after being mercilessly bullied in school, family members told WVVA in Bluefield. School officials said there were anti-bullying measures in place at the school, but many believe that to get to the root of the bullying problem, there must be a culture shift on the student level.