One out of every four students, which is 22%, report being bullied during the school year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. However, according to McCallion and Feder school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%. Yankton’s Webster Elementary School is a great example of taking that extra step to prevent bullying and keep kids feeling safe at school. Melanie Ryken, Webster’s principal, said that while the staff felt they were doing all they could to stop bullying, they felt that there were better tools out there to help them go even further. “Overwhelmingly, the staff was interested in becoming trained even if that meant giving up a few days in the summer to devote to learning about it, training additional staff, and implementing it at Webster.”

Webster is currently using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which is the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today. The program began at Webster in the summer of 2012 when a group of 12 staff members became trained. After the initial group was trained, they in-turn trained the entire staff. Monthly committee meetings were then held to plan for the implementation with the students. “We developed the Webster rules for anti-bullying, designed a rubric and report for consequences, learned how to intervene on the spot, began classroom meetings with the students, informed the parents, got parent/student buy-in, conducted an online bullying questionnaire for older students, and made an anti-bullying video to share our passion.” In addition to this, they also made it personal to Webster by making a BIG deal every fall at their kick-off assembly. And of course there is the annual video the staff and students put together every year, which not only involves everyone but adds that extra personal touch. Mrs. Christensen plans and conducts the video and it involves each and every student. The video is something the students, staff, and even parents look forward to every year. Local businesses and community members have also helped make this program a big deal by funding a free anti-bullying t-shirt. “We feel it is important to spread the word...not just at school; but at the gym, in the store, and around the community.

The program deals with all forms of bullying. “We have seen the action of the program outside of school as well. Such as at football games while supervising. In addition, parents have notified us that they’ve seen their kids or others at Webster be allies at games and as they get older and move on.” In regards to cyber bullying, Melanie says “the definition of bullying remains the same whether it’s verbal, physical, or indirect.” The consequences are the same on the rubric, and if it happens in a venue other than the school...the deciding factor is if it influences what is happening at school. If it is, then the staff addresses it.

When bullying is reported there are 6 steps for “on the spot bullying interventions.”

1. Stop the bullying.

2. Support the student being bullied.

3. To the student who is bullying - we name the bullying behavior and refer to the 4 anti-bullying rules.

4. Empower bystanders.

5. Give immediate consequences.

6. Take steps to protect the student who was bullied from future bullying.

“We are much more in tune to what bullying is and what defines bullying. We have learned how to empower students to stand up to bullying and become allies.” Melanie believes that implementing this program has strengthened the staff and students. From the very beginning, Melanie and the staff have only received positive reactions and comments from the parents and even the students themselves. The staff keeps the parents informed and invites them to the functions; such as the kick-off assemblies each fall.

“We have noticed a decrease in bullying behaviors and most importantly, we have noticed an increase in the number of allies.” When students are spotted being an ally, the school sends home a postcard to the parents. “Students are learning -- stop being a bystander and become an ally.” Melanie believes “most definitely” that this program can stop bullying. “We have seen the first hand effects in addition to the overwhelming research for the program.”

If you are still curious about bullying and the program at Webster, Melanie included information given from the Olweus

Bullying Prevention Program as well as the rules in place at Webster.

What is bullying? When someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending herself or himself.

What are the types of bullying? Verbal (name calling, put downs, taunting, eye rolling), physical (hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, etc) and indirect (isolation, spreading lies/rumors, gossiping, degrading noises, cyberbullying, etc).

What are the effects of bullying? Personal (lack of confidence, guilty feelings, thoughts of self harm/suicide), School problems (truancy, lack of concentration, poor achievement), Physical symptons (headaches, stomachaches, sleeping problems).

Webster’s Anti-Bullying Rules: 1. We will not bully others. 2. We will be allies and help students who are bullied. 3. We will include students who are left out. 4. If we know that someone is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school or an adult at home.

Goals: To reduce existing bullying problems, to prevent the development of new bullying problems and to achieve better peer relations at school.

OLWEUS is not a conflict resolution program. Peer mediation assumes there’s a bit of right and wrong on both sides. The bullied student would lose in the negotiations as both parties do not have the same negotiating power. Conflict resolution leaves the responsibility of the solving of the problem to the students. This is not acceptable with bullying.