Talk of bullying often conjures up an image of a big kid—with lackeys in tow—pushing over a smaller kid on the playground while yelling something mean, but the word encompasses a much broader group of hurtful actions, said Cheryl Greene, a bullying prevention specialist working with School District 622.
Spreading rumors, repeatedly excluding particular students and harassing classmates using technology—cyberbullying—are all common forms of bullying found in schools, but what separates them from the stereotypical playground bully is that they’re harder for adults to detect, Greene said.
To combat that, all of the district’s schools are implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which not only trains teachers and school staff members on how to identify less obvious forms of bullying, but also teaches students not to be “silent bystanders,” but to stand up for their classmates if they see them being bullied, she said.
“We are being proactive,” District 622 Superintendent Patty Phillips said of the program.
Bullying prevention could be a greater focus for schools statewide, as Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order last Tuesday calling for a task force on the issue.
The Olweus program is the top-rated anti-bullying curriculum in the country, Phillips said, and the district was able to use its Safe Schools federal grant money to pay for it.
“It fits our needs, and we had the dollars, so we decided to give it a go,” she said.
To get the program going, Greene is training a core group of staff members at each school, who will then train the rest of their school’s staff. Then teachers will bring the curriculum to the classrooms, she said.
coordinating committee was trained last week, and they expect to hold a kickoff event to mark the start of classroom training at the end of February or early March, Greene said.
Maplewood Middle School—where Greene used to be a teacher—is the farthest along in implementing the program.
They held a kick-off event in November, and the students have been getting the lessons on what to do if they see bullying and how to stand up to peers twice per week, said the Maplewood Middle School principal Jill Miklausich. Teachers are already sharing anecdotes about seeing students speak up for classmates, she said.
“We are starting to see a culture change here,” Miklausich said. “I think it was one of the best investments in staff development that we’ve made.”
Castle Elementary School and plan to implement the program this year, Greene said, and is slated for next year. will likely implement an anti-bullying program next year, she said.