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School district stands up to bullying

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk
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SUMMIT COUNTY ” Don’t plan on stealing anybody’s lunch money in Summit schools.

The local school district is poised to boost its anti-bullying efforts with the help of a $150,000 grant to be spread over the next three school years.

“Success would mean we have no bullying incidents at all in our schools and we will have created a school climate where children are never threatened,” said Breckenridge Elementary principal Rebecca Wilson. “Differences would be celebrated rather than emphasized in a negative way. Children are happy and they cooperate.”

For several years now, Summit schools have employed bullying prevention efforts, but administrators acknowledge there is still work to be done.

At the elementary level, according to Wilson, bullying is mostly verbal.

“Sometimes it is around gender issues; sometimes it’s just if you’re shorter or you wear glasses. Often, elementary kids don’t stop to think about the significance of what they’ve said. It’s, ‘Oh, I was just goofing around.’ What we have to teach them is that it’s not right,” Wilson said.

As children reach adolescence and enter the middle school, the stakes get a little higher as bullying can turn physical.

“More males are involved than females,” said Summit Middle School assistant principal Tom Dickey. “It’s a mixed bag: Sometimes it can be racial, sometimes it’s gender-based. Most of the time it’s the raging hormones and the macho, tough images they see all the time on TV or in the movies.

“In some sense, it’s kids being kids, but we’re trying to change how they interact with each other when things upset them,” Dickey said.

Most recently, the school board adopted a districtwide character education plan. Each school has developed its own slogan to clearly define its character values.

Staff and students incorporate the saying during activities, assemblies and announcements. The middle school’s slogan emphasizes respect, cooperation and integrity.

But officials have struggled to gauge the success of such initiatives.

“The elementary schools, especially, have done a wonderful job,” said local educational consultant Gini Bradley, who assisted in securing the Colorado Trust grant. “They acknowledge specific caring behaviors, the kids get to have lunch with the principal if they’re caught caring, they have assemblies every week and highlight a word like ‘tolerance.'”

The $150,000 grant will allow the district to hire a climate coordinator who will facilitate collaboration among schools, find ways to monitor progress and gather and analyze data ” like the number of visits to principals’ offices.

Some of the funding will pay for staff training in bullying prevention. And some will be set aside to provide special attention for students who have demonstrated bullying behaviors.

“Through some teams at the school, we’ll identify some kids who need extra support,” Bradley said. “We’ll include the bullies, but also the victims ” the ones who get picked on. We’ll spend some extra time with those kids to help them develop the skills they need to avoid being bullied.”

According to the Colorado Trust, a grantmaking foundation focused on the quality of life in Colorado, 85 percent of Colorado students are bystanders in most schools. About 6 percent are bullies and 9 percent are victims of behaviors like exclusion from social events, harsh gossiping, unprovoked physical or verbal attacks and anonymous harassment over e-mail.

Summit School District was one of 45 grant recipients that will participate in the project, giving local officials the benefit of learning from other communities’ successes and failures.

“One of the wonderful aspects of this grant is the regional and statewide meetings that will allow us to network and get feedback through a really collaborative relationship,” Wilson said.


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