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Program looks to knock out bullying

March 30, 2011 - By Olivia Shumaker

Special Writer For The Review

Bullying, a widespread news topic as of late, is an issue that has not escaped notice in Lake Orion. In January, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard gave a presentation on bullying and prevention, and this school year Oakview Middle School launched its Bully Busters program.

Oakview's Bully Busters program was designed to teach students handle bullying preemptively, as well as educating them about what bullying means.

Bully Busters is based on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, the most widely adopted bullying prevention program in the world. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a school wide program developed by Dr. Dan Olweus. It was designed to create a safer school setting and healthy peer interaction through three goals: reducing present bullying issues, preventing new bullying problems, and creating better student relations. The program makes use of four multistep levels of components: school level components, individual level components, classroom level components, and community level components.

Oakview's Bully Busters was launched after the arrival of their new counselor, Pam Fine, who noted a significant amount of bullying behaviors among students and had previous experience with the Olweus program. According to statistics, out of 1,500 fourth through eighth grade students, 42% said they were bullied, and 53% said that they were bullies, with girls twice as likely to be both predators and prey.

After their own survey of students, Oakview took action, increasing staff presence in the hallways and locker pods and creating grade zones on the buses, all of which were named by students as the top three areas for bullying.

"We felt like if we wanted to make a change then it had to be all encompassing," said Carl Zoolkoski, an Oakview teacher.

Bully Busters consists of weekly meetings with high school students on Wednesdays, discussing the issue of the day relating to the encompassing problem of bullying. High school Bully Busters arrive at 7:25 a.m., going into a classroom either with a partner or on their own, talking to students about specific issues and occasionally adding an activity. To attend the meetings, high school students give up their delayed start mornings.

"I had no idea that it was such a problem, and when I found out I could work with other high school kids to fix the problem, I didn't care that I couldn't sleep in," said Bully Buster Courtney Cox.

In January 12, Zoolkoski and other teachers organized students in groups, rules about bullying, and asking whether students had seen or reported bullying in the course of the week. Leaders also asked students if they had made an effort to make someone who was alone feel welcome in their group.

Group leaders brought students to the subject of the day, reporting incidents of bullying to an adult. Zoolkoski went over what students should do if their personal safety is in question, as well as the difference between a joke and bullying, and the difference between tattling on someone and reporting a bully, with students giving examples and commentary throughout. Zoolkoski ended the meeting by discussing bystanders with students.

"The worst bystander is a silent bystander," Zoolkoski said.

"Incorporating high school students makes middle school students more comfortable. They look up to high school students and I think that's a big effect we have," said Cox.

Some different forms of bullying include: flaming, or fights using electronic messages with angry and/or vulgar language, harassment, impersonation, or pretending to be someone else, outing, or sharing someone else's secrets or humiliating information online, trickery, in which the bully talks someone into revealing their secrets, exclusion, cyber-stalking, which was defined as repeated intense online harassment, and cyber threats.

Zoolkoski listed bullying types at Oakview to include verbal abuse, intimidation, exclusion, gossip, cyber bullying incidents and some physical bullying.

Any type of bullying can produce a serious impact on victims, including in-school violence, failure, truancy, or, in a worst case scenario, suicide.

Victimsn usually don't respond, don't retaliate and don't tell an adult.

Bully Busgters recommends don't be a silent bystander, and save the evidence. Stalking, and threatening behaviors are criminal. Even idle threats will be treated as if they will really happen.

"If you are concerned, go to the police, even if it might seem absurd," Bouchard said. In regards to in-school bullying, Bouchard said to talk to school officials first so teachers are aware of the issue .

According to Zoolkoski, 80% of students are bystanders.

Eliminating the silent bystander is one goal of the Bully Busters. The new school rules about bullying make a point of saying students should report bullying, consisting of: we will not bully others, we will try to help students who are bullied, we will try to include students who are left out, and if we know that somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and an adult at home.

Oakview will gauge the success of its efforts by re-administering the bullying survey it gave at the beginning of the year.

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