Williamston Schools look to Stop Bullying

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By Lindsay Dunbar
Williamston Post Staff Writer
Williamston school staff seeks to put a stop to bullying throughout the district with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Teachers, parents, and other staff members seek to end bullying that the school district has had issues with.

The program is in its beginning stages throughout the district, starting with the elementary and middle schools.

The  program is designed to reduce bullying and to create positive relationships among peers and environments. The goal is to make the program appeal to different ages and circumstances that may occur.

Olweus trainers have been meeting with teachers, bus drivers and other staff members. Kick-off events are being created to allow students to understand the rules and outcomes. The program plans class meetings to educate students in correct behaviors.

Parents and School Board Member Ernie Gaffner however, are concerned that students may misinterpret the Olweus policy.

“The way the policy reads … is pretty open on what they can do to defend themselves,” said Gaffner.

Because the program will increase awareness of bullying, Gaffner and others are concerned about retaliation.

“It’s a situation that’s growing, making parents feel helpless.”

Gaffner said that bullying is not a one-way street and that there is confusion about how bullying is actually defined. The school’s  current policy incorrectly suggests that the bully is usually the larger person.

Board Member Rhonda Coon argues that there is  a misunderstanding of what bullying actually is.

“There are different compounds to what bullying is…repeatedly and on purpose is the main issue,” said Coon.

Other concerns about the Olweus Program are that students need to understand that they must tell someone that they have been bullied for the program to work.

 “Parents need to let us know…encourage that parent…we cannot do this without parent involvement,” said Coon.

Board members, staff, and parents are prepared to be patient and give necessary instruction and training to faculty and students.

“We need teachers, bus drivers and everyone having  the same expectations… there will be steps backward until we get it institutionalized,” said Board Member Narda Murphy.

The district plans to collect data by looking at their progress and schools’ previous efforts to measure behavior and how students responded.

The main task of the program is to get students to understand how they are feeling.

The middle school’s intervention coach, John Travis, wants to make sure that students know the difference between what they are saying and feeling.

“A lot of what they say is different than how they are feeling,” said Travis.

Travis and others are allowing students to use anonymous reporting so they don’t feel the pressure from other students.

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