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March 04, 2015
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Banishing bullying; tackling the negatives with positive reinforcement

Voice modulation is one way that the children can make empowering choices and see noticeable results. Rules are in place that teach voice modulation in a simple number-based format—one is silence, two is a whisper, three is a soft voice, four and five are regular and outdoor voices.

Students are asked to be silent in hallways, for example, so as not to disturb the learning process for other students. “We are teaching it all the time, especially in places like the cafeteria and the gym, which can get really noisy,” said Gordon. “The kids really get it, and they take it home. Parents have told us that they use it at home and that reinforces it.”

Such behavior is acknowledged with certificates known as Good News Referrals (GNR), which highlight the positive behaviors that the student has exhibited. The certificates are phrased in a way that reinforces what they are being taught and the school has set a goal to make sure that every child receives at least one good news referral by the end of the year.
“We want them to understand that they followed the rules and can feel good about themselves and their place in the school and community,” said school social worker Sharon Schroeder. “It’s also good for their classmates when they follow the rules.”

Staff members are now involved in integrating bullying initiatives with the PBIS program, with Coloroso’s guidance. “We’re trying to take the bullying concept and put it into PBIS language for our children to understand,” said Gordon. “We have the language down throughout the school, and that was a process that took several years because it involved not just the teachers, but also bus drivers, cafeteria people, the entire staff using the PBIS language consistently. Now we want to use that in ways that can describe and assist with the bullying.”

Another aspect receiving attention is the role of bystanders. “We’re doing a lot of work in getting kids to recognize their role as bystanders and how important it is to report incidents of bullying to an adult,” said Schroeder. “We’re teaching the difference between tattling and reporting, as well as how not to be targets of bullying and what to do if they are.”

Since Coloroso’s visit, a group of staff members at the elementary school went to each classroom to continue related discussions. Corporal Cheryl Crumley from the Sullivan County sheriff’s department, ECS superintendent Robert Dufour and school principal Kathryn Ryan visited classes and joined the discussions with the children.

District Attorney launches anti-bullying campaign in Sullivan County schools

• 160,000 children in America skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students.

• The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 37% of all students don’t feel safe in their school.

• The National Institute of Health reports that 33% of all students in the 6th to 10th grades nationwide experienced some kind of bullying at school.

Given these startling facts, Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell has started an anti-bullying campaign that focuses on reaching children in local schools and speaking about the real effects of bullying. “It is a serious problem that we must address now,” said Farrell. “We all must be engaged—our schools, our teachers, our administrators, our parents and our law enforcement—to end bullying. I believe strongly that bullying prevention in our schools is crime prevention,” Farrell said.

In a letter sent to all superintendents and school principals in Sullivan County, Farrell wrote that bullying is routinely occurring in schools and has real effects on the health, well being and education of children. “I am offering my help and support to you and your teaching staff, students and parents to further combat bullying in our schools. I recognize that my responsibility to the community not only involves prosecuting offenders who violate the law but also trying to prevent crime by raising awareness through education of those who we can impact the most – your students.”

Farrell has begun conducting interactive sessions with students, school staff and parents and making educational presentations. “We are committed to making our schools safe and a place where education can flourish; combating this problem now, and not waiting until tragedy strikes, is the best way to do that. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, 60% of bullies will have a criminal record before the age of 24. That means that my office will be involved in the prosecution of these kids and I want to do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.

“Our children deserve to be safe and feel secure in their schools and I believe that through education, awareness and action we can accomplish that goal. We need to teach our children that there are consequences to their actions and we need to engage the largest group in our schools, the bystanders, the witnesses to bullying, to stand up and to say ‘No More!,’” Farrell said.

The presentation explains the facts of bullying, focuses on the impact bullying has on the bullied, gives direction for those who are being bullied and shows the vital role that bystanders can have in ending bullying. Farrell’s presentation also addresses the issue of cyberbullying.