SAU #19 Implements Comprehensive Anti-Bullying Strategies
By Marcy Bauers
School districts across the state of New Hampshire have each adopted a new policy in response to Governor John Lynch’s signing of the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act (RSA 193-F). The reenacted RSA required that the policy be in place no later than six months after the Act’s effective date of July 1, 2010.
A number of other requirements were set forth in the Act, including: planning how each school district policy will be made known to various groups; a procedure for reporting bullying or cyberbullying; and implementation of training and assessment. While compliance with these requirements will undoubtedly involve a substantial amount of time, the resulting work ahead for school districts will make a difference in the lives of students in New Hampshire.
Making a Difference
Over the past several years, a considerable amount has been written on the subject of bullying. The media have brought many cases of bullying and “bullycide” to the public’s forefront and raised their awareness as an outcome. As a result, society is better informed about bullying. Unfortunately, that knowledge and awareness has not translated into a reduction in the number of bullying instances in our schools.
What are proven strategies for successfully reducing bullying and making our schools safer for students? For nearly two years, school administrators of SAU #19, which serves the towns of Goffstown, New Boston and Dunbarton, have been attempting to find answers to that question. They have immersed themselves in research, training and collaboration with experts in the field. Consequently, they have developed a comprehensive Anti-Bullying Project which is outlined below. More detailed information is available for download. It includes bullying curricula (for grades K–5) and resources for teachers and parents as well as a link to RSA 193-F.
Over the last year, SAU #19 developed a pro-active, comprehensive anti-bullying prevention and educational program to address rising school bullying concerns at a national level while promoting district awareness. As part of the process, school officials applied for and were awarded a competitive grant from the New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) to support and fund initiatives focusing on bullying awareness and prevention at the district’s seven schools.
The district initially consulted with Elizabeth Kandel Englander, Ph.D., founder and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University. Considered an expert in bullying, cyberbullying, aggression and violence, Dr. Englander evaluated faculty surveys on bullying completed by SAU #19 staff. The resulting Report on Faculty Bullying Survey is available for download. “Student and parent surveys will also help us gain a more thorough understanding of the impact bullying has on students,” said SAU #19’s Assistant Superintendent Brian Balke, a key player in the Anti-Bullying Project.
As a part of the DOE grant, Dr. Englander also created anti-bullying curricula for SAU #19’s K–5 classrooms, featuring monthly lessons that align with Second Step®, a violence prevention curriculum developed by Committee for Children. “It will be taught by guidance counselors with teachers sitting in on lessons to understand the focus and carry-over instructional themes,” explained Balke. The curricula include a high-status peer model where older children are partnered with younger children during lessons. For example, kindergarteners will partner with fifth graders and first graders will partner with fourth graders. Other curricula specifics are as follows:
- Grades 6–8 use a comprehensive cyberbullying curriculum that combines Seattle Public Schools and Second Step guidance curricula.
- Lessons are taught monthly.
- Supervision of transitions and unstructured times is reviewed by each school.
- The high school model focuses on interventions and support for targeted students.
- Student engagement events such as poster contests and assemblies are planned to promote awareness and education.
Essential to the success of any anti-bullying project, and required by the new statute, is parent engagement. A number of parent engagement activities are planned by SAU #19 schools, which include parent information sessions on the following topics: general information on bullying, cell phone safety, creating a cyber-safe home and social networking. The formation of two parent engagement models, a Parent Anti-Bullying Leadership Advisory Council and school-specific parent leadership teams, are also in the works.
“Our district’s staff have all been involved in professional development with regard to bullying and attended a school training on the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act prior to the 2010-2011 school year starting,” noted Balke. “We know that incidences of bullying happen more often in less supervised areas, so we’re also evaluating levels of student supervision, which includes the creation of universal expectations for supervision, revised recess models and working with the teachers’ unions to create shared commitment and responsibility.”
Student involvement in this project goes beyond classroom curriculum. A number of activities are planned for SAU #19 students, which are designed to both promote awareness and prevent complacency. Activities include poster design and writing contests with prizes, student recognition, assemblies, a “Wear Blue Day” focused on bullying awareness and a wristband initiative that rewards students who take an anti-bullying pledge.
Clearly, SAU #19 is ahead of the curve with regard to implementing strategies to address RSA 193-F. Balke, who participated in the Legislative Study Group that developed proposed language for the revised “Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention” statute, joins his district colleagues in serving as a resource for other school administrators. “Collaboration will be mutually beneficial for us all,” he concluded.
By sharing best practices and pooling our knowledge and resources, New Hampshire schools will unquestionably improve the learning environments for students. All students deserve an education where they are safe and not subjected to bullying and harassment.
Marcy Bauers is a health and safety advisor at New Hampshire Local Government Center. For more information about bullying resources, she can be contacted by email or at 800.852.3358, ext. 247.