BULLY PREVENTION—PART 2
October is recognized in our school system as Bully Prevention Month. Although we make efforts throughout the year to address issues of bullying behavior, special emphasis is given in the month of October to educate and inform students about issues of bullying and engage in activities to help students address incidents of bullying behavior.
The ROCORI School District is much like other school districts in the state in that we have multiple levels and steps that are taken to address bullying behavior. Some of what we do is required through legislation; other things we do because they are good for students.
As a district, we have a bully prevention policy which is a starting point for our activities. The policy sets the framework of what we expect within the ROCORI School District. Last week, we reviewed some of the information about the policy and our disciplinary approaches. This week, we will consider some of the other efforts and approaches to address bullying behavior.
Our overall approach starts with the idea that bullying behaviors are not acceptable. We encourage individuals to report issues of bullying and then we address the issues that are presented just as we do with any other kind of disciplinary or inappropriate behaviors.
Perhaps the single most important issue involved in bullying behavior is to have the issues reported—to someone. We have a number of formal ways in which bullying behavior can be reported but the most important element is that the situation simply needs to be explained to an authority.
As a district, we acknowledge various reports that come to us. We appreciate efforts to report situations of bullying behavior and our administrators have even investigated issues that arise from posts on our Facebook or Twitter site—which help us become aware of situations students might be facing.
Much like any other disciplinary issue, a reported situation of bullying begins to build a file or record of behavior. The goal from the outset, of course, is to have the behaviors stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop—or results in retaliation—the disciplinary consequences grow.
We have many different programs and instructional efforts designed to address the issue of bullying. Our district staff has been engaged in professional development focused on “Top Twenty” behaviors. It includes guidance and assistance in creating a positive and supportive environment in and out of the classroom. Top Twenty concepts have been introduced to students and were the theme of the fall activities meetings with community and parents. The ideas assist in interactions with adults as well as students.
We have placed simple posters in classrooms across the district. The posters are designed to encourage students to understand what bullying behavior is and what to do if it is experienced. As with many other resources, the posters encourage students to report the behaviors they experience.
Our character education programs, at all levels, include efforts to address bully activities and behaviors. We engage students in a variety of learning experiences and settings to teach them about the power of positive approaches and the negative effects of behaviors like bullying. There are school and student leadership training opportunities.
At the elementary level, we try to build relationships across different ages and grade levels through the use of “family groups.” Older students are encouraged to help be responsible for younger students and take leadership roles in activities. In a similar fashion, we have various leadership roles in the secondary level to encourage positive interactions with older students (seniors, for example) to work with younger students (ninth grade, perhaps).
There are specific parts of classroom curriculum that address bully prevention. In programs such as Health or Family and Consumer Sciences, there are units or parts of instruction that address issues related to bullying behaviors, positive and healthy relationships, and “power” situations. Homeroom and middle school “A-team” activities are periodically related to bully prevention efforts. At the elementary level, classrooms use a “responsive classroom” approach to build appropriate interactions among students and set a positive classroom climate.
I was recently provided some information by Kathy Vanderhagen, counselor at Cold Spring Elementary, regarding the bully prevention efforts at the site. The overall concept is called “Stand UP for Kindness” with a goal to positively change the climate of the building by making bullying, cruel and mean behavior unacceptable and to replace it with Upstander behavior and kindness.
Part of the process is also intended to create a common language to respond to bullying situations with emphasis on terms like Upstander, bystander, bully, target, and kindness. The objective of the program is to help students understand what bullying is, the four types of bullying: physical, verbal, social (indirect), cyber, who gets bullied, who does the bullying, steps to take when being bullied, and Upstander behavior. The program is introduced in October, but themes continue throughout the year.
Cold Spring Elementary is not alone in its building-wide efforts. Each school site has particular and specific efforts to address issues and situations of bullying. there are many efforts across the entire district.
There are times throughout our school year where we will take specific opportunities to address the issue of bullying. Special speakers and programs are regularly brought into the school buildings and/or district to address the issue of bullying behaviors.
We have brought in programs like Critters and Company, Climb Theatre, and Rachel’s Challenge which specifically focus on presentations related to bullying. We engage, across the district, in retreats offered by Youth Frontiers which encourage building positive relationships and respect for others. Regardless of the specific organization, we conduct annual activities, presentations and lyceums which deal with the issues.
Our student councils or student senate leaders and activity leaders will often conduct activities or campaigns focused directly on the issue of bullying or may address related issues and topics. The RHS, RMS and CSE student senate or councils have taken efforts to promote “kindness” days which, over the last couple years, have included the wearing of orange clothing as a symbol to support bully prevention and kindness awareness.
As a district, we have worked to implement several “physical” tools to help us deal with bully behaviors. Inside and outside our buildings, we have surveillance camera systems which allow us to track activity. We also have installed cameras on our transportation system.
The cameras have been used, in a number of situations, to observe behaviors, to monitor particular areas or reported locations, to review interactions of individuals, and to respond to reports of behaviors.
We have visual materials and resources throughout the district to address bullying activity. We have posters in each classroom to remind students of steps to address bullying behaviors as well as encourage appropriate steps to take. There are posters across the district to discourage bully behaviors.
We have had students engage in bully prevention efforts by signing, and then visually displaying, Bully Pledges. The pledge asks students to commit to refrain from engaging in bullying behaviors and to take positive steps to prevent the same behaviors from others. At Cold Spring Elementary, we also have the Spartan Pledge which asks students to commit to positive, appropriate, and productive behaviors. All of the pledge “posters” are displayed publicly in our buildings.
Bullying behavior, especially in our age of technology and electronic means of conducting behavior, is an issue within the national and regional “spotlight” of issues. There are many efforts, including legislation last spring, in Minnesota focused on this type of behavior.
As you can see, the ROCORI School District takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing the issue of bullying behavior. It is a topic that we, as a district, take seriously.