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Tiger Beat - Morris Area High School 021514

Chelsea Bell, VISTA Program

Over the last year and a half, Morris Area Elementary School and Morris Area High School have been participating in a program called The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. With the help of an AmeriCorps VISTA, there have been lessons roughly twice a month since August of 2012.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a well-researched and comprehensive program that is meant to be implemented throughout the entire school. The program mostly concentrates on ideas of mutual respect and effective communication. The main ideas we try to get students to come away with at the end of any lesson are that they don’t have to like everyone they meet, but they should treat everyone they meet with respect, and that if they see a potential incident taking place, to stand up for their fellow student.

With 17 lessons planned for the entire school year, there are between one to three lessons each month for both elementary and high school students. The curriculum varies depending on the grade being taught, and—being that there are so many lessons available—the Olweus Bullying Prevention Committee works hard to choose lessons that they think would be most pertinent to students at the different grade levels.

So, for the elementary students, the emphasis has been a lot on the basics of good communication skills.  These lesson include: strengthening of listening skills, keeping an even temper, learning about body language, identifying their own emotions and the emotions of others, and learning to stand up for one another.

For the middle school and high school level, the concentration is still on many of the same issues but the lessons take on a more mature tone to reflect the more mature audience. Whereas in the elementary school the emphasis is on identifying emotions, now it is on understanding and managing those emotions—giving the students more of the tools for navigating their increasingly complex social situations and interactions.

Before Olweus was started, in the spring of 2012, an Olweus Student Survey (OSS) was conducted to establish a baseline for how students felt about bullying before the implementation of the program. After the first year of implementation, we have seen some great results in our focus questions:

1. How often do the teachers or other adults at school try and put a stop to it when a student is being bullied at school? (q. 20)

• 2011-2012: Often or Almost Always—45.2%

• 2012-2013: Often or Almost Always—52.0%

2. How often do other students try to put a stop to it when a student is being bullied at school? (q. 21)

• 2011-2012    : Often or Almost Always—22.7%

• 2012-2013: Often or Almost Always—23.7%

3. How often have you taken part in bullying another student(s) at school in the past couple of months? (q. 24)

• 2011-2012: I have not bullied others—60.5%

• 2012-2013: I have not bullied others—77.4%

4. How often are you afraid of being bullied by other students in your school? (q. 38)

• 2011-2012: Never or Seldom—52.5%

• 2012-2013: Never or Seldom—60.4%

5. Overall, how much do you think your class or homeroom teacher has done to cut down on bullying in your classroom in the past couple of months? (q. 39)

• 2011-2012: Much or A good deal—52.7%

• 2012-2013: Much or A good deal—62.8%

After only one year of working with Olweus, these numbers are promising.However, there is still more work to be done. With new legislation on the horizon for Minnesota concerning bullying, and with so many recent school tragedies, it is important to stay as on top of this issue as possible. That is why the Morris Area Schools will continue to work to support students and give them the tools necessary to thrive and learn to their full potential.