While school bullying is often trivialized and marginalized in popular culture (think Nelson Muntz of “The Simpsons” and Back to the Future’s Biff Tannen)—often viewed as an unpleasant but ordinary part of growing up—the fact is that it is no laughing matter; bullying is a serious problem in society, and as such, it requires an equally serious approach to combating it and preventing it to begin with.
Colchester School District has programs in place to do just that.
In addition to the district’s bullying prevention policy, one of the programs used by some of the schools in the district is based upon Second Step, which is a research-based curriculum aimed at both preventing bullying and improving social skills through three main components, including empathy building, emotional regulation, and problem solving. At Union Memorial School, for example, Second Step is used for kindergartens exclusively, while elements of it are also used with first and second graders, and particularly Second Step’s problem-solving components. Students also receive help in understanding the difference between normal conflict and bullying.
One of the many great aspects of the program, which is organized by grade level, is that it also contains parent education components, which help parents reinforce the skills at home, and a wide variety of materials and media are also used in the program.
Porters Point School also incorporates elements of Second Step into its curriculum. The guidance curriculum, as well as that of the overall classroom and school environments, is centered around kind acts and kind words. Anti-bullying initiatives are developed in part by creating a culture around respect, responsibility, and getting along with one another, and these concepts are reinforced through a variety of activities. Additionally, Porters Point School’s implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) also includes focusing upon being safe and upon being respectful to one’s self, others, and property—all of which complements anti-bullying strategies. (Stay tuned for more information about PPS’s implementation of PBIS in an upcoming article.)
Another complementary approach, being used for the first time this year at Malletts Bay School, is based upon the Michigan Model for Health. This model utilizes a total wellness approach, encompassing social/emotional, health, exercise, drug and alcohol prevention, nutrition, and safety elements, as well as many others that are meant to encourage healthy behaviors and lifestyles. With regard to addressing and preventing bullying, the program is designed to address bystanders as well as the aggressors and victims of aggressors. And it is important to note that, rather than a one-day lesson or occasional refresher, this is a systemic and fully integrated initiative; it is taught and incorporated every day, built around three basic rules of maintaining safety, respect, and responsibility for one’s actions.
On Tuesday, November 8, Malletts Bay School will host Technicool, a program of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. Technicool is a technology safety program designed for students in grades 4–8, and November 8’s event at MBS will cover cyberbullying and online predators along with a host of other important topics. This is yet another avenue for the district to educate and protect our students around the topic of bullying and aggressive behavior, and it is open to any parent in the CSD community, not just parents of MBS students. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP by October 28; please call (802) 264-5900.
Part of Colchester Middle School’s strategy around this subject is to conduct research through surveys and data analysis in order to prioritize the ways in which it can implement programs around the prevention of bullying, harassment, substance use and abuse, and violence. This research will be part of a systematic approach to examine the school’s climatic and cultural issues, and the goal is for it to aid in identifying the various resources throughout the school, district, and community that are available to create a healthy and positive learning environment.
At Colchester High School, all administrators regularly attend training around the issue of bullying and violence prevention as part of their ongoing efforts to effectively address the issue. Aspects of CHS’s Teacher Advisory (TA) program, which is designed to allow all students to develop a rapport with at least one teacher beginning with their freshman year through the end of their junior year, also addresses bullying, as well. And the school invites a motivational speaker to speak with students about topics around good citizenship and personal responsibility on an annual basis. This year’s speaker was Jeff Yalden.
The Vermont Department of Education also collects and compiles data and resources around the issue of bullying; please feel free to click here for more information. As is stated in the district’s bullying prevention policy, bullying will not be permitted or tolerated, and all students have a right to a safe, civil, and positive learning environment. Bullying is not a laughing matter, and the district resolutely opposes it.
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