Bullies not welcome in Greencastle-Antrim School District

PAT FRIDGEN
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The Greencastle-Antrim School District is serious about reducing the number of bullying incidents among students. For the second year it is participating in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Each school is hosting kick-off activities to reacquaint students with the goals of the initiative, to reduce bullying situations, prevent new issues, and improve relationships among all students.

Teachers in the elementary school spent opening day, Aug. 29, in mixed-age group activities, a new tack.

“We’re trying to create a community feeling,” said principal Chad Stover.

The elementary anti-bullying committee, comprised of teachers, brought new ideas to the table. For the first time ever, lunch periods will not be segregated by grade levels. That way the youngsters will interact with students they wouldn’t encounter in the classroom.

On Monday, kids in various grades met with one teacher, and participated in activities to get to know students in third, fourth and fifth grades. A bean bag game helped them put names to faces. A hula hoop game stressed teamwork. They all learned a bully-free pledge and signed a poster to not be a part of that bad behavior.

Finally, the students gathered outside and created a bully fence. Standing alongside someone not necessarily in the same grade, the 675 students held hands and circled the building. Stover drove around in a motorized cart and yelled into a megaphone “We are” to which the students responded “Bully free”.

Sarah Douglas, 10, Shianne Reaves, 10, and Madison Kirkwood, 8, recited the pledge.

“We don’t like bullying at our school. It isn’t nice and it isn’t cool. Every school has a right to be, safe and fun and bully-free.”

A couple students defined bullying.

“A kid that picks on others,” said Brandon Hull, 9.

“Leaving somebody out when playing,” said Cierra Burger, 10.

Blake Dixon, 9, knew what to do if he spotted someone treating another person poorly.

“Tell them to stop doing it and say you’re going to tell an adult.”

The elementary school committee will meet with the faculty three times over the course of the year for staff professional development. Classroom teachers will also hold a meeting with their students once a week to discuss the school culture, whether anyone is getting bullied and how to handle it.

The other schools

The middle school reinforced concepts implemented in a school assembly last spring by targeting separate grades on the first day of classes, said assistant principal Missy Shuey. The sixth graders participated in a scavenger hunt to explore the school, and found bullying statistics at each stop. The seventh grade was at an event in which they reinforced the roles each person plays in a bully circle, whether a victim, perpetrator or observer. The eighth grade scavenger hunt focused on the four rules: We will not bully others; we will help students who are bullied; we will include students who are left out; and if we know that someone is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home. The students identified the adults they would talk to.

In the primary school, principal Angela Singer geared the issue to the younger set, with a focus on “Don’t Be a Bully Goat”. She calls the animated figure “really cute” and it will be incorporated into activities throughout the year. On Friday the school assembly will cover several topics, including bullying. The children will be introduced to the book ‘Jungle Bullies’, review the four rules, and have a class meeting. Next week each grade level will follow up with special activities, and continue weekly meetings.

The high school will host an assembly the morning of Sept. 6. It will present true stories from local students, and G-AHS and national statistics on bullying, in the program ‘This is My Story’.

Parents are invited to attend the same program that evening from 7 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium. The parents will be able to register their students for door prizes donated by various businesses. Refreshments will be provided.

The high school committee is calling itself Blue Devil P.R.I.D.E., Please Respect Individual Differences Everywhere. Assistant principal Christine Reiber wrote to parents that the Olweus program benefits all students, not just those who are being bullied or harassed.

The district’s anti bullying/harassment program is funded by Highmark Healthy High 5, an initiative of the Highmark Foundation. The schools are tracking the effectiveness of the Olweus program through surveys, but data from last year is not back.

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