Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County Schools kicked off a brand new program in all district schools today called the Olweus (pronounced ole-VAY-us) Bullying Prevention Program in an effort to ramp up the school's fight against bullying.
Each school held their own events to help start this award-winning program that will continue throughout the school year.
Kentucky Department of Education trainers conducted two initial trainings in-district for members of Bullying Prevention Coordination Committees at each school. From there, Bullying Prevention Coordination Committees worked to train staff members at each county school building at the beginning of the school year.
Students today at the 5/6 Center watched a powerful video created by Dunsford Elementary School in Ontario, Canada that was definitely an attention grabber. They watched another video of familiar faces, where local personalities sent personal anti-bullying messages to students. Some included radio personality Tony Rose, Sheriff Shane Doyle, Superintendent Patrick Waddell, State Rep. Michael Meredith and Coleton Parsley. The event was then capped off with a very entertaining 'dance-off' competition between home rooms.
"We've only heard positive comments from the faculty, staff, and students about this morning's program," said Principal Alan Talley. "We were able to focus everyone's attention on the upcoming bullying prevention program and our students were challenged by several community members to team together as a school to stop bullying. At the conclusion of our program, we were able to have a lot of fun as our students displayed unbelievable teamwork by putting together dance routines, as part of grade level competitions."
Principals from the other county schools also discussed their kickoff programs.
"The Olweus program provides us with a good framework to cut down on bullying," said ECMS Principal Brandon Prunty. "Today's kickoff event was used to create awareness for students and staff. We wanted to let our students know we are serious about preventing bullying here at ECMS. We also encourage students to be sure to let adults know about bullying so it can be reported and dealt with at school. So many times we hear that a student has been bullied numerous times but it is not reported to us until later. We strive to investigate bullying situations, but can only do so if we are made aware. We are using an unified approach with this program and letting students know it will take everyone working together to shut down those who are bullying. Students recently completed a bullying questionnaire and the data we receive from the survey will help us make decisions about what we can to to remedy the situation."
Kyrock Elementary Principal Shaun Stice praised the program, saying it promotes a proactive stance on bullying. "A large component of the program is weekly classroom meetings, which are 15-20 minutes and allow the teacher to discuss bullying prevention, what to do if you are being bullied, help students that are afraid to tell, and also discuss how to interact and build relationships with peers," said Stice. "This program is going to be great at the elementary level in that it teaches kids at an early age how to interact with one another and that bullying is not ok. This alone will help curb future bullying problems on down the road. At Kyrock Elementary we feel that it is very important for our students to feel safe at school and this program will only help us further develop a positive atmosphere."
ECHS Principal Tommy Hodges and SEES Principal Josh Long also discussed the kickoff in each of their schools.
"Our program will consist of an overview with a skit presented by the Drama Department while other students will be in the gym with the Youth Service Center doing different things, then we'll switch groups." said Hodges. "We want to reach all our students here at the high school to prevent bullying."
Principal Long said that SEES is excited to have a school-wide program that focuses on not only prevention, but also a specific, detailed plan that helps elementary students understand and how to refrain from bullying, as well as what to do if they feel like they are being bullied.
"Teachers, the counselor, and the principal investigate every bullying instance that a student or parent informs us of and we take the necessary steps to ensure that every student at South Edmonson is able to come to school ready to learn in a safe, positive, and happy environment," added Long.
Superintendent Patrick Waddell said the school system is serious about taking a proactive approach to prevent bullying in Edmonson County and he's looking for very positive results as an effect.
"Research shows this to be one of the best bullying prevention programs available," he said. "All staff have received training on this program during the past summer, and all schools are implementing this program throughout the District. I believe we are only the third district in KY to implement this program district wide, and I am pleased with the support on the implementation from the schools. I believe it will make a difference."