The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Area school systems take varied approaches on bullying
By PAMELA GOULD
At least five divisions in the Fredericksburg region are using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in their schools to some degree.
Spotsylvania County started employing it at two of its 17 elementary schools in January. Cedar Forest and Riverview are now in their first full school year of implementation.
Stafford County uses it in six of its eight middle schools and has trained staff at three elementary schools, said Yolanda Conaway–Wood, the division’s supervisor of student services. She hopes to have the program in place at all middle schools before the end of this school year and at all elementary schools within two years.
Stafford offers no anti-bullying programs at the high schools, but guidance counselors are expected to address the issue, Conaway–Wood said. The division chose the Olweus program for elementary and middle school students because of its all-inclusive nature, Conaway–Wood said.
“It involves the students. It involves the teachers. It involves the entire staff,” she said. “It really is a comprehensive strategy that changes the climate of a school and not just on a classroom level.”
Fredericksburg public schools use the Olweus program at Lafayette Upper Elementary, said schools spokeswoman Laura Baxter-Christopher. It is the only school in the city school district with an ongoing anti-bullying program, she said.
School divisions in Caroline and Orange counties use Olweus throughout their schools. In some cases, they use it as a model, modifying it to suit a particular student population, staff in those divisions said.
Though not all school divisions have an ongoing program to address bullying, most do something during the year, such as hold an assembly, provide character education or employ mentor programs, all of which aim to reinforce positive behavior.
King George County, for example, uses a program that teaches respect and problem-solving at the kindergarten through fifth-grade level. The middle and high schools focus on positive reinforcement, commending students for appropriate conduct.
“It’s based on building a positive environment and rewarding good behavior,” said Gayle Hock, supervisor of guidance and social work services. “It’s a culture, an environment we want to build.”
Culpeper County launched a division-wide anti-bullying campaign in 2010 that it called “10 schools, 1 mission to stop bullying,” said Russell Houck, executive director of student services.
That program, like Olweus, is aimed at education and prevention since Olweus estimates nearly one in five children is bullied.
The division educated staff, students, parents and the community about the forms that bullying can take such as cyber-bullying, threats and exclusion. It also educated all groups on the effects of bullying on victims and witnesses, and provided tips for addressing it.
Last spring, Culpeper surveyed elementary and middle school students on the topic and plans to survey high school students this spring. Culpeper schools hold class meetings and read stories to help students develop empathy and understanding, Houck said.
Like all of the region’s educators, he said “prevention is key.”
—Staff writers Lindley Estes, Donnie Johnston, Dan McFarland, Robyn Sidersky and Amy Umble contributed to this report.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972