When CMS initiated a county-wide anti-bullying initiative two years ago, Crestdale Middle School decided to go beyond the directive to create a safe and orderly learning environment for all students.
Crestdale’s efforts to end bullying began with the formation of an intervention committee comprised of administrators, guidance counselors, behavior intervention specialists, academic and elective teachers and the school’s resource officer.
This year, the committee was extended to include four seventh grade students, the Dream Team 4, who were selected by their teachers on the basis of their academics, behavior and character.
RayeAnna Hoff, 13, Trey Patterson, 12, Anand Loganathan, 13, and Bethany McAlister, 12, represented Crestdale Middle School at a Bullying Summit at the White Water Center in October.
“We learned about teamwork building activities,” Loganathan said.
The anti-bullying speakers at the Summit drove home the message that, as McAlister put it, “change starts with me.” Adds Hoff, “If you see something, don’t be a bystander. Report it immediately.”
The four students have shared what they’ve learned at quarterly grade-level assemblies, where they go over the “ABC’s – Achieve, Behave and Contribute.” They give examples of both exemplary and bad behavior and lead team-building activities.
“It’s more fun to see us on stage than a bunch of adults,” McAlister said.
Rhonda Houston, Crestdale’s principal, agreed.
“There’s more buy-in when it comes from your peers,” she said.
The intervention committee, led by Assistant Principal Debra Foxx-Simmons is determined to incorporate the entire Crestdale community in its anti-bullying initiatives.
Every classroom is adorned with a signed pledge that decrees it is a safe zone, and every student and educator is asked to sign a pledge promising to create and maintain a bullying-free school.
Last year, the pledge was extended to the school’s bus drivers because, as Foxx-Simmons said, “sometimes bus drivers see more bullying than is seen on school grounds.”
The committee is working with the PTO and the School Leadership Team to get parents more involved in the initiative as well.
“We would like the entire learning committee to be on board,” Foxx-Simmons says.
The biggest push has been with the students, with initiatives aimed at getting students motivated to display good character but also to report instances of bullying and bad behavior.
A student mailbox was recently placed outside the cafeteria with cards that can be filled out easily and anonymously, complete with examples of both good and bad behavior.
“It’s for kids who are too afraid to talk to a teacher,” Patterson said.
The school has also sponsored an anti-bullying essay writing competition and a T-shirt contest, all designed to have the student body involved in the school’s anti-bullying efforts.
Patterson sees all of these anti-bullying efforts having a direct impact on the classroom.
“It will make us better students,” he says, “because class won’t be disrupted with bad behavior.”
McAlister sees another benefit to the focus on bullying.
“It will create more opportunities for us to get to know each other,” she said. “Some bullying happens because you do not know someone’s circumstances, like calling a boy a crybaby when it turns out his mom is in the hospital.”
All four student ambassadors relish their roles as anti-bullying crusaders but Patterson likes the assemblies the best.
“I like being able to share examples of all the good things that happen around here,” he said.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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