Boca Schools to Implement New Program
Published Thursday, February 9, 2006
by Nicol Jenkins
The worst fear for school administrators and parents is that teasing and bullying results in Columbine-like reactions. At the same time, school district officials realize that bullying, or peer abuse isn’t going away.
And children are using new harassment methods such as the Internet to tease and bully.
The School District of Palm Beach County will soon test a new prevention program, according to Kimberly Mazauskas, District Bullying Prevention Project Coordinator for the Safe Schools Department.
The program is called the BluePrints for Violence Prevention: Olweus Bullying Prevention Program – named after its originator, University of Bergen, Norway professor Dan Olweus. It has been implemented in schools throughout the country including Germany, the United Kingdom and Norway.
Two Boca Raton schools- Addison Mizner Elementary School and Don Estridge High Tech Middle School- have been chosen to pilot the Olweus program here.
However, the program is still in its planning stages. If approved it will begin at the two area schools next fall, Mazauskas said.
“The administrators are proactively addressing climate issues,” Mazauskas said. “But it’s not that these schools have more [bullying] issues than anyone else.”
Mazauskas said the program is designed to: address prevention and intervention issues related to bullying, reduce existing victim problems among elementary, middle and junior high school students, prevent the development of new problems and improve peer relations.
“This is not a curriculum but a school-wide program with activities and interventions,” she said.
These intervention activities include:
” An anonymous student questionnaire about bullying, formation of a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee, training for staff
” Development of school-wide rules against bullying, development of a coordinated system of supervision, and parental involvement
” Classroom-level interventions involve holding regular classroom meetings about bullying and peer relations and meetings with parents
” Individual-level interventions involve individual meetings with children who engage in bully behavior and the students who are being victimized and the role of the bystander
” Requires partnership and participation with parents and the community
If the program curbs bullying at these pilot schools, then every Palm Beach County school could see more bullying prevention initiatives, she said.
“We want to get it right so we can duplicate it throughout the district,” she said.
The Palm Beach County school police, Department of Safe Schools, City of Boca Raton have joined forces with the Rodd D. Brickell Foundation that started the Bully-Proofing Your School Project in Miami and Dade county schools.
The Brickell Foundation gave the city of Boca a $5,000 grant, which the city matched, according to Norman Brickell, President of the Rodd D. Brickell Foundation, a private group founded in 1987 in memory of his son. The group started Bully-Proofing Your School Project in 2000.
“Bullying has always been around. Nowadays, the Internet and access to guns has become a problem,” Brickell said. “And bullying leads to violence, violence leads to suicide and then you have Columbines that occur.”
Brickell is looking at implementing the Olweus project into Delray Beach and Boynton Beach schools as well.
Mazauskas said there are currently programs implemented in each grade level including Aggressors, Victims and Bystanders in middle schools, aimed to educate children on the dangerous consequences of bullying, she said.
She thinks this new bullying program will also educate peers. She referred to steady research findings where the Olweus program documented 30 to 70 percent reductions in student reports of being bullies and bullying others.
Donna C. Binninger, principal at Addison Mizner Elementary said she’s seen a proposal and is interested in learning more about the anti-bullying program.
“I’m open for it. It can enhance what we already have here- really nice kids and families,” Binninger said. “And anything to help kids become more tolerant and accepting of differences is a good thing.”
The administrator thinks elementary age is a pivotal time to begin.
“It’s important to start at the elementary level, so in middle school and high school it’s ingrained in them,” she said.
Michael McCurdy, Assistant Principal at Don Estridge High Tech Middle School said he would be interested in adding the program to existing anti-bullying prevention techniques.
“Bullying here is not cool. Nothing here gives positive results,” McCurdy said. “Our school culture is strong on anti-bullying, positive expectations and citizenship. And citizenship is what anti-bullying is about.”
– Nicol Jenkins