YME pilots bullying prevention program

GRANITE FALLS -- Laurie Schultze and Robin Henderson want Yellow Medicine East Public School students to STAND UP against bullying. STAND UP is the theme for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program being piloted by YME for two years with the help ...

GRANITE FALLS -- Laurie Schultze and Robin Henderson want Yellow Medicine East Public School students to STAND UP against bullying.

STAND UP is the theme for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program being piloted by YME for two years with the help of a $7,000 grant from PACT 4 Families Collaborative. The program was developed by Dan Olweus, a psychologist from Norway.

YME is piloting the program to reduce the rate and incidence of bullying in the schools, says Schultze, YME curriculum and staff development coordinator. Two other districts -- ACGC and BOLD -- also received grants to pilot the program.

Schultze and Henderson discussed the program in a recent telephone interview with the Tribune.

Schultze says students from kindergarten to 12th grade are being asked to stand up for themselves, stand up for others and stand up against bullying.


With all the news reports, information and data available on the short-term and long-term negative effects of bullying, "we felt that it was a program that it's time to look into,'' says Schultze.

According to Olweus, bullying poisons the educational environment and affects the learning of every child. In 1982, three Norwegian boys, ages 10 through 14, committed suicide, apparently as a result of severe bullying by classmates, according to the Web site Education World.

The event triggered outrage and shock and led Olweus to develop a bullying intervention program. He tested his program on more than 2,500 students in Bergen, Norway, and found incidents of bullying dropped by more than 50 percent.

The Web site Project Alliance quotes Olweus' research indicating about 15 percent of students are either bullied regularly or are themselves bullies. The direct types of bullying, such as physical behaviors, name-calling and teasing, increase in the elementary years, peak in middle school and decline in high school. While physical behaviors may lessen over time, verbal teasing remains constant, according to Olweus.

YME defines bullying as repeated exposure to negative actions on the part of one or more students. The district doesn't have a glaring problem with bullying, says Schultze, but she says everyone knows the unacceptable behavior happens.

"The interesting thing is we do know who the bullies are. We certainly know who the victims are,'' says Schultze.

The piece that's missing, she says, is the bystander.

"Bystanders are those that literally stand by and either are a little bit a part of it, or they're snickering or they are watching and feeling bad and won't step up,'' she says. "What we want to do is get the ones that are sort of participating and snickering about it to realize that that behavior needs to stop. We want the students who are bothered by the behavior to feel comfortable in stepping up.''


Stepping up means talking to teachers, say Schultze and Henderson.

"We trained our staff and our administrators to listen and hear what these students are saying, to process more information about the incident, and then pretty much if it needs to be handled by the administration or the school social workers, it goes to that level,'' Schultze explains.

Henderson, intergenerational coordinator at Bert Raney Elementary School, says the district has adopted four rules:

n We will not bully others.

n We will help students who are being bullied.

n We will include students who are left out.

n We will report bullying.

"They're pretty simple, but I think it's a good message that can be for any age level,'' says Henderson.


The program began Jan. 17 with presentations on the bullying prevention theme by actors from Climb Theater and Homeward Bound Theatre.

Classroom teachers are holding weekly meetings on bullying prevention issues.

At Bert Raney and H.A. Hegg elementary schools, students received colorful elastic wrist bands. "We feel it's just a way to keep promoting the anti-bullying message,'' says Henderson.

The program is being well-received by students. Schultze says teachers were surveyed after they had an opportunity to talk to students. She said reactions were quite positive.

"More comments about 'I'm glad something is finally being done, that this is a good thing,' '' says Schultze.

The Olweus program is new to PACT 4, which serves 14 school districts and community partners in Kandiyohi, Meeker, Renville, and Yellow Medicine counties, said Sarah Wennerberg, PACT 4 evaluations specialist.

PACT 4 will use survey results of students' and teachers' experiences, perceptions and observations about bullying at the end of two years to determine if PACT 4 will recommend the Olweus program to other schools, according to Wennerberg.

A SHARE (Supporting Healthy And Respectful Environments) grant is providing funds for the Olweus program.


"We'd like to show that it is effective and, if so, then other schools can opt to participate,'' said Wennerberg. "I think with our SHARE grant if another district wanted to start it up next school year, they might be able to do so. But we'd have to have our results from the pilot study put together before anybody would want to decide that.''

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