Driven by an increase in school bullying nationwide in recent years, officials at Brookings-Harbor’s public schools have implemented programs to reduce bullying incidents.
Brookings-Harbor High School staff have implemented a variety of new lessons and incentives that they hope will change the school’s culture surrounding bullying and harassment.
“It’s always been on our radar ... but we’ve sat down and brainstormed issues that deal with harassment in our schools and are trying some new strategies to minimize bullying and harassment,” Principal Larry Martindale said.
The school’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) team has worked hard to develop monthly bullying lessons on topics such as:
•“What is bullying?
• Why does it happen?
•What do we do about it?
•How do we give youth the tools to feel better about themselves and to look for the best in others?”
PBIS is a positive behavior program that acknowledges good behavior as opposed to just bad.
After a PBIS lesson in November, students will be given an opportunity to express themselves through a song, poem, drawing, or essay regarding a time when someone created a “positive chain reaction” in their life.
BHHS also plans to add a “positive action reaction board” where students can write instances when someone did something kind for them such as sitting with them at lunch.
“It would be students recognizing students for doing something positive for them in their life,” PBIS coordinator Michelle Prudden said.
BHHS also will give surveys to parents, students and staff that will ask questions such as how bullying is happening and where it occurs. Posters with more information will be posted throughout the school, as well.
Student leaders will help support Rachel’s Challenge, a program inspired by Rachel Joy Scott, killed in the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. The program teaches people to combat bullying and create a culture of kindness and compassion, according to its website, by going through a training and then teaching their peers how to recognize self-worth in others. They also will partner with Curry Public Health to host a bullying prevention week, beginning Monday, Oct. 8.
“It’s a community issue,” Prudden said. “We want to pull our resources, work with the community.”
Through all of these programs, BHHS hopes to help students understand that it is okay to be different, and that they should be more tolerant of students who are, Martindale said.
“We definitely have clear goal with these programs and where we want to go this year,” Martindale said. “We’re very optimistic that we’re going to have a positive impact on our school climate this year.
“We recognize we have a problem with bullying and harassment. We’re trying to do everything to offer education and support to our kids.”
Azalea Middle School
Azalea Middle School staff have taught students what bullying and harassment look like, and are now focused on teaching students how they should behave.
“There isn’t any one thing that’s going to make the big change,” Azalea Middle School Principal Sheryl Lipski said. “I think you have to come at it from a variety of ways.”
Last year, a group of students were trained to be peer mediators through the company Mediation Works. More students will be trained in December.
On Oct. 18, Azalea is hosting a Rachel’s Challenge community event. The challenge aims to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion.
Staff will also incorporate lessons from a Rachel’s Challenge curriculum throughout the year.
“We want to focus on awareness, on how we should be treating each other, where we should go,” Lipski said.
Right now, students are participating in team-building activities to break down barriers. They recently signed an anti-bully pledge, as well.
A few years ago, Azalea staff participated in a ChoicePoint training, a curriculum model that empowers students to act positively and make effective choices when confronted with incidents of bullying and aggression at school, according to a handout on the curriculum.
Lipski hopes to add the training again soon, and would like to incorporate it back into the sixth-grade curriculum.
“It’s just trying to get kids to think in their own way, to solve what problems they have,” Lipski said. “It helps to nip those things that are little issues before they grow into big issues.”
Lipski wants to teach students that, unlike in many TV shows and on social media sites, it is not acceptable to prank or treat others poorly in the real world.
“They need to learn this is not how we treat each other at school,” she said.
She hopes that this will be accomplished by “doing lots and hitting on different areas.”
Kalmiopsis Elementary School
Kalmiopsis Elementary School staff work hard to teach students that bullying is not okay through a variety of programs and incentives.
To address bullying, Kalmiopsis Elementary School primarily utilizes PBIS. Staff hope that the students with poor behavior will pick up on the recognition and will change their own.
The school’s goal is to have “the majority of students rewarded for positive actions … so we won’t have as much negative behaviors among students. Whether it’s classroom behavior or playground behavior,” Principal Helena Chirinian said. “Even though it’s not technically anti-bullying, those types of systems in place are very important for (schools) to have less bullying. If you don’t have systems and structures in place, it’s very difficult.”
The program is supported by a PBIS team, comprised of teachers who use an intervention system to track referrals and to focus on problem areas such as bathrooms and hallways.
“PBIS has staff support, kid support,” Chirinian said. “Everyone enjoys it.”
Along with PBIS, Kalmiopsis is working with Brookings resident Gordon Clay to participate in an anti-bully pledge on Wednesday, Oct. 10, Unity Day, when schools and communities can unite to support students who have been bullied. Kalmiopsis students who participate will receive a bookmark and wristband.
A few years ago, the school made an anti-bullying video. In the clip, students pledge to stand up against bullying. The video is a reminder of the school’s commitment to “say no to bullies.”
Finally, individual teachers work hard to address bullying. Many have boxes in their classroom where students can drop notes to let their teacher know that someone is bothering them.