Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
The Reading City Community School District embarked on a journey last school year to research and select a bulling prevention program that could be implemented district-wide during the 2013-2014 school year. After much work, an anti-bullying program was selected, which met the criteria and standards developed by our bullying prevention search team. After much research, the team chose the Olweus Anti-Bullying program, a program that has been implemented throughout the world and has over thirty-five years of research supporting it.
Olweus is a multi-tiered program that addresses bullying at all levels of a student’s experience: school-wide, classroom, individual, and community. The overall goal of Olweus is to shift behavioral norms regarding bullying and redesign the architecture of the school climate to be a more positive environment in which bullying is less likely to occur or be rewarded. The program is designed for all students, not only those who are bullied and those who bully others. The Olweus program is a comprehensive, long-term approach to the prevention of bullying, not simply a shot-in-the-arm effort to put out fires when bullying occurs.
The school district has adopted Olweus’s definition of bullying with the implementation of the program: A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. Imbedded in this definition are three major components: 1) Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions; 2) Bullying generally involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time; 3) Bullying involves an imbalance of power. Also, bullying can take place in many different forms: physical hitting, verbal taunts, spreading of false rumors, intentional social exclusion, and sending nasty messages on a cell phone or over the internet.
School-Wide Level: At the school level, all of our staff have been trained in the Olweus method for preventing bullying and have been provided with the necessary resources to implement the program. In addition, staff discussions are continuing throughout the year as teachers delve into the depths of teaching students important social-emotional skills that are the foundation of the program.
At the school-wide level, there is the administration of the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire. This is an anonymous questionnaire given to all of our students in grades 3 to 5. The questionnaire results help reveal the nature and extent of bullying in our school, in addition to monitoring the effectiveness and impact of the program.
4 anti-bullying rules: Our school has adopted the 4 rules against bullying: 1) We will not bully others; 2) We will try to help students who are bullied; 3) We will try to include students who are left out; 4) If we know someone is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.
Olweus kick-off: As a school, we kicked off our bullying prevention program the second week of school. It included several activities, such as a door-decorating contest, a fish mural, and a puppet show. Each student in the school decorated a paper fish with a pledge on the back against bullying. All of the fish were then hung in the cafeteria in the shape of one large fish with the message: “We Are Many Fish. We Are One School.” This activity was an effort to support the idea that we are a community within our school.
School-wide Parent Involvement: Gaining parent involvement is a crucial part of the Olweus program. In an effort to get parent participation, we held a Family Photo Night where parents were invited to come to school and have their family photos taken. At that event, an overview of the Olweus program was presented to parents. Parents were given the opportunity to ask questions and be a part of our efforts to prevent bullying at Hilltop.
Classroom Level: Discussion and enforcement of our 4 anti-bullying rules: Each class has spent time going over the 4 anti-bullying rules, along with the definition of bullying. In this way, students are better able to identify bullying and take steps to prevent it.
Classroom Meetings: Each class, kindergarten thru grade 5, conducts a weekly class meeting. The purpose of these meetings is to build a sense of community while also discussing various topics that support social-emotional learning. Students look forward to these weekly meetings as a forum for voicing their thoughts and opinions.
Individual Level: We have a protocol for handling cases of bullying that involves a flow chart to help determine if an incident or behavior is truly bullying. Once a case of bullying has been identified, appropriate actions are taken to help the person who was bullied, and consequences are given to the person engaging in bullying behaviors. Teachers have also been trained to intervene on-the-spot when bullying behavior is identified.
Community Level: As the school year progresses, our bullying prevention team will be looking for ways to spread anti-bullying messages to the larger community. One means of promoting anti-bullying messages has been with the use of our button-making machine. We have been churning out hundreds of buttons that have positive messages on them about friendship and community. We are also planning to produce and distribute t-shirts with anti-bullying messages.