Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Area schools fight bullying with programs, discipline

 

December 9, 2014



QCS Senior Writer

Schools in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties are combating bullying in compliance with state law and are seeing positive results.

The state Public Education Department requires every local school district and state chartered school to implement bullying prevention programs, according to the education department’s website.

The website defines “bullying” as “any repeated and pervasive written, verbal or electronic expression, physical act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to cause distress upon one or more students” on school properties or at school events, according to state statute.

Bullying can include "hazing, harassment, intimidation or menacing acts,” the statute says.

All schools are required to train teachers, staff and students on how to recognize and report bullying, and how to resolve and even prevent bullying.

“During the first couple weeks of schools I held assemblies about bullying that were age-specific,” said Dennis Roch, Logan Municipal School's superintendent.

Roch said during the assemblies, he stressed why children should not engage in bullying. Bystanders to acts of bullying, he said, are part of the problem if they do nothing to try to stop it.

“I encouraged the students to not be by-standers but to be 'up-standers' and stand up for someone who they see is being bullied,” Roch said.

Roch said he has made sure to included cyber-bullying in talks to the children. He said there have also been posters placed in the hallways discouraging bullying and promoting student cooperation. “So far this message has worked well with the children,” Roch said. “I have seen students stand up for another student in front of their peers.”

Roch said that the assembly and displays in hallways and classrooms have helped students make the right decisions on and off campus.

The Portales school system has made bullying education parat of the health curriculum, starting in the elementary schools, said David VanWettering, assistant superintendent.

VanWettering said school counselors are showing students how to interact with other kids and display proper behavior.

“Our health teachers and counselors teach the kids how to recognize bullying and how to stand up to it,” he said. “The most powerful way to combat bullying is for bystanders to stand up.”

VanWettering said counselors visit with small groups of students who have bullied others or have been bullied to show them how to deal with issues in a positive manner. These efforts help, he said, but they do not eliminate bullying completely.

The program “has been successful in helping us to better recognize bullying and give us the proper training and tools to deal with it,” VanWettering said. Teachers have also received training to identify bullying and what to do if they find it.

The fifth and sixth grade students of Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School in Portales receive education on bullying in a 10-week curriculum that is taught two days a month, said Tammy Hunton, a student counselor. The program’s goal is to develop empathy and help students understand the effects of bullying, she said.

“Its more than a matter of educating them about the problem,” she said. “It’s about teaching them the need to stop the problem,” Hunton said.

Hunton said students learn that the consequences of bullying are very serious. In most cases, she said, the victims resort to harmful behavior themselves, including becoming bullies, themselves. In extreme cases, she said, suicides have occurred.

Along with how to identify bullying, she said, students learn how properly to intervene in a bullying incident without escalating the situation.

Hunton said the school has also instituted “Buddy Benches,” where students who are new, are having a hard day or just needed a buddy, can sit.

Students who see someone on the bench can talk to that person or invite them to play, she said. The schools raised money to have the benches placed and at lunch once a week for 12 weeks, teachers monitored the benches to ensure that students needing a buddy found one.

Hunton said school staff also reach out to students who exhibit bullying behavior. Hunton said she will then counsel these students on more positive ways to express themselves and develop better social skills. She said the counseling is an element in the disciplinary component of the school’s anti-bullying program.

Hunton said the school has a “no-tolerance” policy towards bullying.

The school involves parents from the first bullying incident. Most cases can be resolved through counseling, she said, but if bullying continues, disciplinary actions can range from in-school suspension to out-of-school suspension. No students have been suspended out of school to date, she said.

Jay Brady, principal at Clovis’s Marshall Middle School, said there are three roles in bullying, the aggressor, the victim and bystanders. The middle school’s bullying programs, he said, educate students in recognizing the roles involved in the bullying cycle.

Brady said many bullies were once bullied themselves, and they in turn become bullies.

“It is this cycle that we are working to reduce with our counseling and anti-bullying programs,” he said.

Brady’s program includes rap and poster contests, an anti-bullying T-shirt design contest and even anti-bullying skits and infomercials produced in the school’s own TV studio, which are then broadcast throughout the school.

Contest winners receive recognition at a spring assembly, Brady said, and T-shirts with the winning design are distributed to students, students, faculty and staff.

“We teach character development and stress that physical and emotional harm is not OK,” he said.

If the students see someone being harmed in such a way, he instructs them to report it immediately, he said.

“We want the children to be kind and courteous, but we also want them to know what is and isn't bullying,” he said.

Brady said kids sometimes mistake a someone joking around with a friend as bullying.

“We want to educate the kids to be able to identify bullying when it occurs, so they can report it to a teacher or counselor,” Brady said.

The school investigates every report of bullying, he said. If an incident is determined to involve bullying, school staff will counsel the kids and, if policy warrants it, take disciplinary action.

“We know we can't eliminate bullying completely but we can reduce it so that a student will feel safe and happy when coming to school, and that's the way it should be,” said Brady.

 

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