Schools to teach students how to combat bullying
WILLMAR -- When people think of the stereotypical playground bully, they may think of the kid who pushes someone else around physically. But bullying goes far beyond that. Teasing, spreading rumors or deliberately excluding someone from a group a...
WILLMAR -- When people think of the stereotypical playground bully, they may think of the kid who pushes someone else around physically.
But bullying goes far beyond that. Teasing, spreading rumors or deliberately excluding someone from a group are all less visible forms of bullying.
Students in grades K-8 at Willmar's schools will be learning more about bullying this week and ways they can step in to try to stop it, and help to prevent it, using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
The program training was funded through a federal grant and PACT 4 Families Collaborative.
"The goal of the program really is to help all of our students feel safe at school," said Beckie Simenson, principal at Jefferson and Lincoln elementary schools.
The school staff has always tried to address bullying, but this program helps develop a more consistent, coordinated approach to the problem, said Annette Tiffany, a school social worker at the Junior High. It also offers advice to students who are witnesses to bullying.
"It's one more piece that's going to help them understand what it is and what to do about it," Tiffany said.
Jeff Winter, guidance counselor at the Junior High, called the program a new philosophy for the district that will be in effect from now on. Those involved in the development of the program hope it will lead to fewer major disagreements and fights in school.
"A big part of this program is that if you take care of the little stuff, the big stuff will take care of itself," Winter said. Tiffany said it's the same idea New York City once used to cut down on crime.
Students who have been bullied or who want to step in should "feel like they're not out there by themselves, that somebody's got their backs," said Child Guide Aggie Meium.
Activities for the coming week will include school-wide assemblies, designing bumper stickers or posters and decorating classroom doors with anti-bullying messages. Local businesspeople will judge the doors. Students will receive anti-bullying wrist bands.
Lincoln Elementary plans "The World's Largest Hug" on Friday. Kennedy Elementary plans a pancake feed for student and their families on Saturday. At Roosevelt Elementary and the Junior High, student-produced videos will be shown.
All staff members, including cooks and bus drivers, were trained in the Olweus program during an in-service day in January. The staff at the participating schools will wear T-shirts during the week printed with the program's logo and slogan: a tennis shoe making ripples in a puddle and the slogan "Step up, Take a Stand, Do Not Bully."
Business signs will include the program's slogan, too.
More than 40 local businesses sponsored the T-shirt project. The logo was designed by Brent Peterson, a teacher at Kennedy Elementary.
Organizers hope the program extends into the community. "It's just getting that common language out in the community," Simenson said. Whether it's at the mall or at a ball game, "we want children to feel safe," she added.
Tiffany provided a list of actions people can take when they see bullying. Some of the suggestions would apply to students, like helping someone whose books have been knocked down or walking away from people who are fighting. However, other tips could apply to adults and children:
- Do not participate in name-calling or put downs.
- Don't laugh if someone else calls someone names.
- Support someone who is being teased by getting to know their name and saying hello.
- Let someone who's being teased know you don't think the teasing is funny.
- Refuse to listen to rumors.
- Change the subject if someone starts to tell you a rumor; walk away from people telling rumors.
- Do not repeat a rumor.
- Include someone who is being left out.