Plan to decrease bullying | RecordCourier.com

Plan to decrease bullying

by Regina Purcell, Staff Writer

Imagine going to sleep, and waking up in the morning dreading going about your daily business because someone is constantly belittling you, calling you names, and intimidating you.

A lot of children face that dilemma every day because of a bully making their lives miserable.

“It is very common in middle school,” said Jodi Wass, counselor at Carson ValleyMiddle School. “If a group of kids think someone doesn’t fit into their clique, it’s usually verbal, (abuse).”

Bullying is an issue most publicly schooled students face daily in their lives. A report sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 claims 15 percent of all students, nationally, in grades K-12, are either victims of or bullies themselves.

And another department of education report from 1999 indicates that as many as 80 percent of middle school students engage in some sort of bullying behavior.

Both reports concur bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines during high school years.

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“Our general social values have changed,” said Marty Swisher, new principal at CVMS. “Now, you stand out if you do something wrong, and go unnoticed if you are doing the right thing.”

Parents and administrators at Carson Valley Middle School are preparing to fight the statistics with the High Five Program, initiated during the first day of school Monday.

Teachers, other staff and some students hosted school-wide assemblies and held skits about right and wrong behaviors in order to teach students about the High Five Program.

Started by the Fern Ridge Middle School in Elmira, Ore. five years ago, the High Five Program practices positive reinforcement.

Wass is director of the CVMS High Five program.

She said earlier this year staff and parents met to look at ways to decrease bullying.

“When we researched the program, statistics showed a huge decrease in disciplinary referrals,” she said. “We are not expecting full elimination, but a decrease would be tremendous.”

Swisher’s goal is to eliminate expulsions at the school during the 2002-03 school year.

Wass and Swisher agree that a focus on reinforcing positive behavior will be the emphasis, rather than “busting” students for negative behaviors, said Wass.

“Teachers want a different focus. They want to identify and reward positive behaviors,” said Swisher.

“The research shows it helps students achieve.”

Swisher explained that five behaviors become the school-wide focus:

1. Be Respectful.

2. Be Responsible

3. Keep Hands and Feet to Self.

4. Follow Directions.

5. Be There – Be Ready

He explained that each week, the entire school, students and staff alike, will focus and emphasize one of the positive behaviors and reward students with High Five Tiger Bucks, redeemable for perks, including raffles for movie passes, school dances, and gift certificates from local merchants.

Wass said students were polled last school year to determine their favorite rewards, so “we have a whole database,” said Wass.

And Swisher said teachers are encouraged to be generous with handing out the bucks.

Swisher said there may be some detractors to the program who say good behavior should be expected, not rewarded.

“Most people have to be rewarded,” he said. “Having taught for 17 years, I know a lot of kids already do what is right, and the reward is extra incentive.

“We’ll be rewarding good kids and they will bring the rest along. We will be putting real energy into what’s important.”

Swisher said there is one challenge.

“The kids understand this is totally their responsibility,” he said. “This is a pilot program so it is not going to be perfect.

“The only challenge is sustaining it throughout the year. But our parents won’t let that happen.”

n Regina Purcell can be reached at rpurcell@recordcourier.com