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This Is What Bullying Sounds Like -- LA Teens Make An EP About Not Being A Jerk

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Students from the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood answer questions about songs they wrote about preventing bullying. (Carla Javier/KPCC)
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More than one in four middle and high school students in the U.S. say they've been bullied, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In recent years, bullying and cyberbullying prevention have been the goal of campaigns by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and even First Lady Melania Trump's "BE BEST" initiative.

Now, the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood is trying a novel approach: Seven students there are trying to get bullies to change their tune.

So, they wrote songs about their own experiences being bullied and supporting friends who have been bullied.

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It was all part of the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood's "Spread Love, Not Hate" project. The organization connected them with music industry professionals to write, record, and produce their songs.

The result? A two-song EP.

The lyrics of "Don't Be A Bully" were inspired, in part, by the experiences of a 12-year-old girl named Mia.

[We are using only her first name to protect her privacy at the request of the Boys & Girls Club.]

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"I was called things that shouldn't have been said basically, and they talked about my mom, and racial slurs have happened," she explained. "And I just didn't think that was okay, at all."

The students performed the songs and answered questions about them at the iHeartMedia performance studio in Burbank.

"Big artists perform here," Real 92.3 radio host and Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood mentor Nina Chantele said at the event. "You've got Maroon 5, Adam Levine, you guys are performing on main stages right now."

Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood CEO Mel Culpepper said she was nearly brought to tears by the experience.

"I watched them transform from the shy sort of introverts, to speaking out, to being really in your face about this issue," Culpepper said. "And they seem proud. They seem really proud."

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We have excerpts from the two songs -- "Don't Be A Bully" and "Above" -- below. If you click on the play buttons, you can hear the students explain the lyrics:

"Don't Be A Bully" by Mia, Joseph, Kali, and Melany
If you wanna be heard
Just listen to these words
Forgiveness is the key
To set your soul free
If you want to break the cycle
Just tell them how you feel
Maybe you could understand
What's the real deal

When you get bullied, just be strong
That's why we wrote this song

Don't be a bully at school,
'Cause you know you're gonna make them feel bad
You gotta spread love, not hate, you can change it all
You gotta spread love, not hate,
Pick them up when they fall
Pick 'em up, pick 'em up, don't hate on 'em
Pick 'em up, pick 'em up when they fall down
Pick 'em up, pick 'em up, spread love now

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Spread love now
Spread love now

"Above" by Madeline, Emma, and Benjamin
If they try to tear you down,
Stand up make things right,
So there won't be any fights
Keep your feet on the ground,
Dark days can turn bright,
Let them guide your life

If you need a friend to go and just be by your side
And know that everything will be alright
Don't ignore the ones that just want to be by your side
Don't be afraid; you'll be alright

Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh

If you know that you're above, you will feel the love, from being above
If you know that you're above, you will feel the love, from being above

Being above
Being above

Editor's note: A version of this story also aired on our radio station, KPCC. You can listen to it here.