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Bully-Proofing Your School at Newfield Elementary by Kathy Plumley, Principal; Communique Vol. 29, No. 2, p36,© 2000 The National Association of School Psychologists. Used with permission. Click here to download a PDF of the Newfield study. During the 1999-2000 school year, the staff at Newfield Elementary School began a Bully-Proofing Your School project. When we decided on this project, we had no way of knowing the truly positive effect it would have on our school. Assessing Needs When I began as principal in December 1998 in a small rural district in upstate New York , I was amazed at the number of discipline referrals that came to the principal's office every day. It was not uncommon to see ten to twelve students daily out of an enrollment of a little more than 400 in our kindergarten through grade five building. Although some students were sent on an almost daily basis, many would be new faces. Teachers were trying various discipline strategies, but the problems remained. In January 1999, some staff members and I were able to attend a workshop on a program I hoped would prove to be helpful to us. The program, "Bully-Proofing Your School ," was from the Cherry Creek District in Denver, Colorado. The program outlined a school-wide approach that clearly defined acceptable behavior, provided separate intervention for bullies and victims, and recognized the students who consistently exhibited good behavior. By securing a grant from the NASP Children ' s Fund for the initial start-up costs, we were able to implement the program in the 1999-2000 school year. In the article, "Safe Schools: Violence Risk Factors/Prevention Strategies " (Board of Cooperative Educational Services, 1999), four main principles of effectiveness in safe schools are discussed. These same four basic principles are an integral part of Bully-Proofing Your School: The school conducts a needs assessment. The school sets measurable goals and objectives. The school implements an effective, research-based program. The school evaluates the program to determine its effectiveness. To determine our needs, we administered a school climate survey to the elementary staff in March 1999 . The survey results strongly indicated that there were regular and frequent incidences of bullying behavior: 41% responded that students were hit, pushed or kicked by other kids 5 or more times per week 46% responded that students said mean things, teased, or called other people names 5 or more dines per week 26% responded that students told stories about other kids that were not true 5 or more times per week 46% responded that students did not let other students join in what they were doing 2-4 times per week 38% responded that students took things that belonged to other students 2-4 times per week 32% responded that students threatened to hurt other students or take things 5 or more times per week 23% responded that students teased others about their grades at least once per week The survey also showed that bullying was not gender specific and that bullying occurred in many locations throughout the school. Further evidence of need was shown from our Student Information Systems (SIS). In the 1998-99 school year, there were 1 76 reports of physical aggression, 187 reports of verbal aggression and 24 reports of in timidation. Program Implementation After gathering these data, we began to set building goals. We wanted to provide a consistent and cohesive program throughout the school. We also wanted to lower the in cidence of bullying behaviors and the subsequent discipline referrals while encouraging students to exhibit prosocial behavior and providing them recognition for these behaviors. We set some ambitious targets such as reducing the percentages on the school climate survey to 10% or less. The program implementation began with staff training on a conference day before the start of school. It was important that the adults in the building had the same information and expectations. After the workshop, each teacher was given a Bully-Proofing Your School manual. As the principal, I met with the students in grade level meetings on the first day to briefly outline the program. I emphasized that the same good behaviors would be expected everywhere in the school. I presented the three school-wide rules to prevent bullying: We will not bully others. We will help others who are being bullied by speaking out and getting adult help. We will use extra effort to include all students in activities in the school.

The students saw copies of posters that would be displayed in classrooms, hallways and in the cafeteria, and they had an opportunity to ask questions. Teachers initiated the classroom program by having each student take the Bully Survey included in the manual. This gave us baseline school climate data from the students' perspective. Then teachers taught the eight introductory lessons during September so that we could start school-wide assemblies to recognize the "Caring Majority " by the end of October. To be part of the Caring Majority, a student was nominated by classmates or the teacher during a class meeting. Nominees had to consistently exhibit the three behaviors outlined in the school rules. Assemblies with themes such a respect and responsibility were held every four to six weeks. At the end of each assembly, each student who had been selected by classmates to be recognized as part of the Caring Majority for that month was called to the front of the auditorium and received an Olympic type medal on a green ribbon. Students not only wore their medals for each assembly after that, but many proudly wore them every day. Outcomes At the end of the year, the school climate survey and the Bully Survey were given again. Although we did not meet the lofty goals we had set, we did see significant results. The school climate surveys completed by the staff yielded the following results: 23% responded that students were hit, pushed, or kicked by other kids 5 or more times per week (down 18%) 39% responded that students said mean things, teased, or called other students names 5 or more times per week (down 7%) 23% responded that students told stories about other kids that were not true 5 or more times per week (down 3%) 20% responded that students did not let other students join in what they were doing 2 - 4times per week (down 26%) 16% responded that students took things that belonged to other students 2-4 times per week (down 22%) 8 % responded that students threatened to hurt other students or rake things 5 or more times per week (down 24%) 16% responded that students teased other students about their grades one time per week (down 7%) The student Bully Surveys were equally indicative of a successful implementation year. The following chart shows a comparison between the September and June survey results. QuestionSep-99Jun-00 Difference I feel very happy and good when I'm at school.56%60%4% The teachers and other adults at my school are very helpful.46%82%36% I feel very safe in my classroom. 86%84%-2% I feel very safe on the playground.62%69%7% I feel very safe in the cafeteria.79%79%0% I feel very safe going to and from school.35%66%31% Further confirmation of the program success can he gleaned from the SIS data. The 1999-2000 information shows 115 reports of physical aggression (down 35%), 139 reports of verbal aggression (down 26%) and 22 reports of intimidation (down 8%). Although the data clearly show that we made good progress in changing our school climate and increasing socially acceptable behavior in our school, we will make some adjustments to the program next year. We had planned to include bus drivers, food service workers and custodians in the initial training, but had not been able to do that. We realized that teachers don't see students all the time and that these other adults should not only he familiar with the program but reinforce the program goals in their contacts with students and give input into the selection of students for the Caring Majority. Teachers will submit a list of Caring Majority candidates to the office by the last week of each month and we will distribute the lists to these other adults for their participation in the selection process. We noticed that some students were able to exhibit acceptable behavior for one month, become part of the Caring Majority and receive a medal, hut not he able to sustain the accept- able behaviors in subsequent months. For this reason, we agreed to change the criteria some- what for students to receive the Caring Majority medal.

Students will receive a certificate for each month that they are part of the Caring Majority. If they receive seven certificates over the course of the year, plus the certificate for June, they will be honored at a school-wide as sembly and receive the medal then. Eighty percent represents the mastery level at our school and we felt this should he attainable for students to he recognized at the assembly. We were pleased and encouraged by our progress in our first year of the program. We are hoping for even greater gains in the future. I believe a student best summed up our feelings about Bully-Proofing Your School in a note she wrote at the end of the year: I loved Bully-Proofing and the Caring Majority. I'm glad to know we are having it again next year. Thank you very much.— Nadine References Garrity, C., Jens, R., Porter, W., Sager, N., Short-Camilli, C. (1994). Bully-Proofing Your School. Colorado: Sopris West. Board of Cooperative Educational Services. (1999). Emerging Legal Issues -- Safe Schools: Violence risk factors/preventions strategies (pp. 1-3). West Seneca, NY: Author. Return to top of page

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