Prevention best tool against bullying

Clovis Municipal Schools takes bullying very seriously. Bullying is a challenge that commonly crops up in schools everywhere. It used to be that when a student went home, they could at least be granted reprieve from bullying behaviors. Now, however, with kids perpetually plugged in electronically through social media and cell phones, it becomes increasingly difficult to get away from these negative behaviors. Even if a student has limited access to electronic media, acquaintances seem to find a way to quickly share negative news.

As a result, it becomes increasingly important for schools to address anti-bullying activities in a proactive manner. As the saying goes, "Prevention is the best medicine."

Our own Marshall Middle School (MMS) has been particularly responsive in not only positively and proactively addressing problems, but also in rapidly changing the whole school culture and climate in terms of bullying activities. MMS staff ensures that students clearly understand the four types of bullying behavior: Verbal, physical, emotional and cyber.

Three years ago, Marshall began its proactive approach with the now famous "I Care" drop box, located in the school library, where students could anonymously report bullying behaviors. Combined with embedded curriculum, and brochure/poster/T-shirt anti-bullying contests, each year has culminated with an anti-bullying assembly that includes awards and special accolades. Kids now not only continue to use the "I Care" box, but they also feel very comfortable about dropping by the office or talking to a teacher about bullying behaviors, because they are now less concerned with anonymity. They know that staff follows up on every report to ensure accuracy and problem resolution.

Assistant Principal Cindy Terry and licensed Social Worker Lynn Fronk described the changes that have taken place at Marshall: "While this year's goal continues — wanting all kids to feel safe about reporting any bullying — our whole school climate is definitely improved. We've also seen improvement in other areas, such as attendance."

Take a drive by Marshall, and you can see their marquee in front of the school that says, "Marshall … Striving to be Bully-Free." Ready to step up the pace, Marshall would like to enlist the aid of businesses, churches, or other locations around town in getting the same message out. Many are already participating with "Clovis … Striving to be Bully-Free" on their own marquees. For those locales participating, a team of staff and students will drop by that location to photograph their marquee, which will then be included in the year-end video at Marshall's anti-bullying assembly. This year's assembly will also be featuring some big surprises; don't ask … lips are sealed. For those businesses or interested parties that do not have a marquee, posters, designed by students, will be provided to display.

Any and all are encouraged to participate. What a powerful image to see this anti-bullying message community-wide showing that we all care. If interested, contact Marshall Middle School at 769-4410.

Who knows? Such actions may change lives not only now, but throughout years to come.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org

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