Saturday, February 19, 2005
The 1999 shootings at Littleton's Columbine High School left 14 students and one teacher dead and a nation horrified.
In the years since that tragedy played out under a global spotlight, schools, cities, states and the federal government have worked to address the issue of school bullying through a variety of programs, policies and laws.
Combating bullying and its potentially tragic consequences begins at an early age through programs such as the one used at Steamboat Springs' Soda Creek Elementary School.
Brande O'Hare, the school's part-time counselor, has spent the past several weeks working with elementary students at all grade levels to introduce the concept of bullying, help children understand what constitutes bullying and provide them tools to combat bullying.
One of the most difficult parts of addressing the issue is getting children and parents to understand what bullying is and isn't, Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris said.
"I think the biggest misunderstanding from parents and students is what bullying really is," Harris said.
By definition, bullying is deliberate and repeated behavior intended to harm others. Bullying is done by those with greater physical or social power to those with less physical or social power. Bullying can take many forms in children, including kicking, hitting, pushing, stealing, teasing, name-calling, embarrassing others, gossiping and preventing others from joining groups. Bullying is not a one-time or isolated incident of teasing or fighting, which is common with children.
Bullies, whether male or female, often are motivated by feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, family problems and a fear of being disliked, O'Hare said.
Confronting bullies can be very difficult for children, and counselors recommend that students band together when addressing bullies.
"It's very hard to stand up to a bully by yourself," O'Hare said. "The No. 1 thing kids say is that they want to learn how to stand up for other kids. It's really giving them ownership for taking care of one another."
O'Hare has been teaching Soda Creek students several methods for reclaiming the power that bullies attempt to strip from them. The first involves telling a bully that his or her behavior isn't appreciated and telling him or her to stop. The second is to escape the bullying situation and tell an adult. Students also can tell bullies that the school has rules against what they're doing, O'Hare said.
Teaching students about bullying in elementary school is important because bullying often peaks in middle school, O'Hare said. The students also learn about anger management, self-control, respect, empathy and listening skills while dealing with the bullying issue.
"I see it as an integral part of a well-rounded educational program," Harris said of the no-bullying program. "No bullying is a foundation for kids to understand correct behavior and that they have the power to report and respond to bullying."
Since the program started several years ago, Harris said more kids are reporting incidents of bullying, though she said bullying isn't a problem at her school.
"We have a few kids who bully and a lot of kids who want to learn steps to combat it," O'Hare said.
-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org