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HomeNewsArchivesTerritory Pushes Forward with Anti-Bullying Program

Territory Pushes Forward with Anti-Bullying Program

Sometimes, figuring out how to handle a bully can be a matter of life and death, and local officials are hoping to help students, parents and local school staff through that process with a new initiative meant to cut violence and promote learning.
"We know that some kids are terrified to come to school because they are harassed," Roderick Moorehead, special assistant to the Education commissioner, said during a recent radio discussion broadcast on WSTX.
"We want to turn that around, making sure the school climate is such that people can learn comfortably and maximize their potential — we need to make a safe environment for everyone."
Education is teaming up with the Children and Families Council — spearheaded by First Lady Cecile deJongh — and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), which has worked its way into 6,000 schools across the mainland and more than 25 countries.
DeJongh recently explained that the pilot program took root locally after she had a chance meeting with OBPP Development Director Marlene Snyder, who showed interest in spreading the program after working on its development at the St. Croix Country Day School.
"The goal is to make the anti-bullying initiative part of the school curriculum," deJongh said during a recent interview. "We want to train the staff to recognize the signs and be able to stop them on the spot. The idea is creating an atmosphere and climate where students feel comfortable saying I’m bullied."
The initiative debuts this year at Claude O. Markoe and Juanita Gardine elementary schools on St. Croix, along with Joseph Gomez and Lockhart Elementary schools, and Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School (BCB) on St. Thomas.
So far, 1,545 students throughout the five schools have taken a survey on bullying, and once those results are in, each school’s principal will assemble an anti-bullying committee headed by a coordinator that will be trained to carry out the program and tasked with indentifying initiatives that will help address the individual problems on campus.
"We want to build adult awareness skills in order to stop bullying," Snyder said during the recent radio interview. "We do a lot in terms of parent education because we think adults are the key to stopping bullying in any environment."
Synder said parents are alerted to exactly what research has shown about the effects of bullying — namely that people who are "bullied relentlessly" are more likely to suffer physical and mental health problems, along with poor academic performance, because they’re more focused on "what’s going to happen to them next."
Increased incidences of suicide and violent behavior — exhibited by students bringing weapons to school, or getting into fights — have also been cropping up, experts have said.
And here at home, students are being socially excluded for a plethora of different reasons, while others battle rumors, peer pressure and "cyberbullying," which Moorhead said is becoming more commonplace.
Over at BCB, school principal Carver Farrow said people would "be surprised" at the amount of bullying that goes on between the students.
"Some of it’s right out in the open, right in front of your nose," he said recently. "But we are aware of it, and the most important thing we tell the students is that if they feel threatened or intimidated, to make sure they tell an adult they trust as soon as it happens."
DeJongh said that message will be reinforced through the program, as schools are transformed into anti-bullying safe places.
"The idea is creating an atmosphere and climate where the students actually feel comfortable saying they’re being bullied," she said. "We all have to try to the best of our abilities to make our schools safe for those who want to go."

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