Wilson Hall 4th-grader helps put bullying awareness, safety in Sumter spotlight

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 5/11/18

One fourth-grader is making strides in promoting school safety at her own private school and throughout Sumter County, from preventing bullying to fencing in campuses, and she even has the attention of the mayor.

Madison Grace Hansen wrote a …

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Wilson Hall 4th-grader helps put bullying awareness, safety in Sumter spotlight

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One fourth-grader is making strides in promoting school safety at her own private school and throughout Sumter County, from preventing bullying to fencing in campuses, and she even has the attention of the mayor.

Madison Grace Hansen wrote a letter to Mayor Joe McElveen asking him to proclaim a month for national bullying awareness prevention. On Tuesday, McElveen met the 9-year-old, her parents and her teacher and lower school principal at Wilson Hall to ask her questions about school safety and her request before signing the proclamation for September.

"I just don't really like seeing people being mean to each other," she said before the meeting on Tuesday.

Madison Grace said she does not see bullying or unsafe happenings at her school but that her mother, a public middle school teacher in Sumter, does.

The young student is the 2017-18 Miss Swan Lake, and she is using that spotlight as a platform for anti-bullying awareness.

"I am only 9 years old and see the need right here in our community. I see bullying at the stores when an older person jumps in front of a younger person in line or when I am at an outing with my friends and see other children being mean to complete strangers," reads a letter to the mayor.

Madison Grace wore her Miss Swan Lake sash and tiara as she sat in the Sumter City Council Chambers at the top of the Sumter Opera House.

"I think it's wonderful someone your age is even thinking about this and is willing to talk about it," McElveen said.

Madison Grace's platform is reaching further than bullying. Her efforts have contributed to changes in school security that will be put into place this summer at her own school.

Eddie Talley, assistant headmaster and lower school principal at Wilson Hall, said the campus will be fenced in this summer, which will include the installation of a guard gate that will be required to pass through to enter the prekindergarten-through-12th-grade school on Wilson Hall Road.

Talley said the process of upgrading the school's security began recently in light of calls for enhanced security nationwide and various threats of and real violence at schools but that Madison Grace's enthusiasm encouraged and quickened the pace.

The school already conducted drills throughout this school year, which they had not done before, he said.

Another addition to the security of the campus in the fall will be the presence of a school resource officer inside the building.

"I'm glad she feels safe," Talley said. "We're trying to be proactive."