LISBON - The Columbiana County Commissioners declared this week as Bullying Prevention Week, but local educators and mental health officials have been targeting bullying on a daily basis.
"It isn't just a one-day program," Family and Children First Council Coordinator Karen Arbogast said. "With Olweus, it's here to stay."
Dr. Dan Olweus developed his bullying prevention program in Norway in 1983 "as a response to several student suicides which resulted from incidents of bullying," according to a press release issued to commemorate Bullying Prevention Week.
Since then, the program has been implemented all over the world, with pilot programs first used in the Lisbon and Leetonia school districts and the FCFC hosting the first Olweus training in 2005. Last year, the FCFC through the county Mental Health and Recovery Services Board joined forces with the county Educational Service Center to promote the training throughout the area school districts.
Arbogast and Elizabeth Barringer of the ESC received schooling to become Olweus program trainers to cut the costs of bringing the school-wide training to schools in the county. Training begins with a two-day session for a district's core team, then the entire school staff receives training, including teachers, administrators, secretaries, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, students and parents. Schools also host a kickoff day with students.
"Everybody needs to be trained so they know what bullying is and how to intervene when they see it," Arbogast said.
Bullying can be described as picking on someone who can't defend themselves or saying mean comments to another person. Bullying can be verbal, physical, sexual, social or happen over the Internet. According to the press release, "20 percent of all students report being bullied."
Remember Scut Farkas from "A Christmas Story?" How about Bluto from Popeye fame? Or Butch from "The Little Rascals?" All famous bullies who got high off of harassing or beating up others, that is until someone stood up to them or gave them a taste of their own medicine.
With Ulweus, the four rules of the program taught to students are:
we will not bully others
we will help students who are bullied
we will include students who are left out
if we know somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.
When commissioners approved the resolution for Bullying Prevention Week, Barringer and Arbogast explained the program to them, with Barringer stressing the importance of tackling the problem in the county.
"Anything we can do to help kids feel safe in school is important," she said.
Eight school districts have completed the training in at least one of their buildings, including Beaver Local, Crestview, East Palestine, Leetonia, Lisbon, Southern Local, United Local and Wellsville.
The Family Recovery Center provided staff support for bully prevention in Crestview and Southern Local schools. Financial support for the program has also come from Juvenile Court, the Department of Job and Family Services, the ESC and the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board. The training doesn't cost the schools anything, with funding secured for training materials, Arbogast said.
Salem and East Liverpool schools have not taken the training, but she said they've had conversations with them. Many of the districts start in the lower grades where they can have a greater impact on bullying, which can be anything from name-calling to taking lunch money or arranging public humiliation. Schools come up with plans on how to respond to different behaviors so that everyone knows what to do when they see an act of bullying.
In one district, she said they divided the behaviors into levels. A student caught teasing another student could face a discussion regarding the inacceptable behavior and if it happens again, they'll have to call their parents and explain what they did and could face in-school suspension if the behavior continues. In a more serious offense, such as extortion of lunch money or teasing due to race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, the student could face having to call their parents about what they did and having detention or up two days of out-of-school suspension, along with training against the behavior.
Arbogast said schools want to do the right thing by their students and the "Ulweus Program gives them a blueprint, that map for handling a situation."
Students have weekly classroom meetings about bullying prevention and learn how they need to get involved or how they can report it if it's happening to them or they see it happening to someone else.
Parents who notice their child doesn't want to go to school should pay attention since it could be a sign that they're being bullied. Bullying can take a great toll on students, Arbogast said.
For more information on the program, contact Arbogast at 330-424-0195 extension 106 or Barringer at 330-424-9591 extension 140.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at mgreiersalemnews.net