The Washington Post

Friendship bench heals all wounds at Florida elementary school

Acacia Woodley, a sixth-grader in Florida, had the idea for a "Friendship Bench" at her school, where kids can sit back and have a shoulder to lean on. (Tim Shortt/FLORIDA TODAY)

For most of Acacia Woodley’s 10 years, she has noticed people staring at her.

The sixth-grader at Palm Bay Elementary School in Florida was born without a right hand; her left hand is deformed.

“Some people say they feel sorry for me. I tell them not to be,” she said. “I don’t care that I’m different. I like that I’m different.”

So when Acacia moved to Florida recently, she had an idea for her new school. She suggested having a place where anyone could go when they need a friend, some support or even a hug. It’s called a “friendship bench.”

If a student sits on the bench, it’s a signal to classmates — and nearby adults — that it’s time to become a friend.

Principal Lori Migliore uses the bench almost every day as a positive end to what often is a hurtful event between children. After winding up in the principal’s office for horsing around or shoving, students sit on the friendship bench, which is decorated with positive words including “respect.”

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