BRISTOL ‚Äď Teachers at Northeast Middle School had their first meeting Thursday with ‚ÄúNo Bully,‚ÄĚ a group which is partnering with ESPN to bring new techniques to teachers in order to remedy what they call a ‚Äúbullying epidemic.‚ÄĚ
Jennifer Brevoort, trainer and coach with No Bully, said that their nationwide campaign with ESPN, ‚ÄúShred Hate‚ÄĚ is an opportunity for school staff to ‚Äústart speaking the same language‚ÄĚ on bullying and stop situations from escalating. It was their first time speaking in Bristol.
Jennifer Paulett, corporate citizenship manager with ESPN, said that this is their third year speaking to school staff about the issue of bullying through the Shred the Hate campaign.
‚ÄúWe said that we wanted to give back and we asked our athletes and fans what an issue they feel strongly about is,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúBullying was a topic that kept coming up. We did our research and we identified No Bully as an organization that has been having an impact in schools. They have been an incredible partner.‚ÄĚ
So far, Paulett said that Shred Hate has reached 10,000 school staff members nationwide and 88,000 kids have been impacted. Last year, Paulett said, Major League Baseball also joined in the effort.
‚ÄúIn addition to our national effort, we wanted to make a local effort as well,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe are proud to be in Bristol and
we wanted to give back to our local community as well.‚ÄĚ
Principal Daniel Sonstrom said that the changes No Bully advocates will not be a ‚Äúhuge process‚ÄĚ to implement.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôll be teaching us quick and simple things that we can do to make big changes in the climate of our school,‚ÄĚ he said.
Brevoort said that the No Bully model has a 90 percent success rate when properly implemented. She said the goal of her first meeting with school staff was to define bullying and harassment and determine easy to implement interventions. She would also be giving the school staff an online course to take.
Brevoort quizzed the teachers present on what they thought the best predictor of student success is. Teachers‚Äô answers ranged from support, to coping skills to socio-economic status to relationships with mentors. But, Brevoort said that while these were critical elements the most important thing was kids being able to build and maintain a circle of close friends.
‚ÄúWhen kids are excluded and neglected the same part of the brain lights up as when they are receiving physical pain,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúHumans are social animals and we need other people. Studies have found that kids would rather be hurt than be alone, which is why they don‚Äôt isolate themselves from bullies. The strategy has to be to build alternate relationships.‚ÄĚ
Brevoort also told teachers that they should not think of bullies as ‚Äúa group of villains running around the school.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThink of them as developing humans,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe need to come up with ways to teach kids to get out of the role of bullying just like we need to teach kids to stand up instead of being bystanders and we need to teach kids who are bullied how to get their power back.‚ÄĚ
Brevoort then had teachers do a survey where they rated the different types of bullying in school on a scale of 0 to 10 in severity. Only one teacher of the three-dozen or so in the room raised their hand when asked if physical bullying ranked as a 6 or above on that scale. Most teachers raised their hands to say that ‚Äúnon-verbal bullying, exclusion and rumor spreading‚ÄĚ ranked 6 or higher and ‚Äúcyber-bullying‚ÄĚ ranked 6 or higher.
Only two teachers raised their hand saying sexual harassment was a 6 or higher on the scale. One teacher said that boys often don‚Äôt know that what they are doing is offensive. Another teacher said that he often hears students calling each other ‚Äúgay‚ÄĚ a lot.
‚ÄúHarassment is a crime and we want kids to avoid committing it,‚ÄĚ said Brevoort. ‚ÄúWe want them to become better at using appropriate language for school. ‚ÄėRoasting culture‚Äô is common in middle school and often leads to verbal bullying.‚ÄĚ
Teachers explained their responses by saying that verbal bullying was more common than physical because the consequences for physical bullying are swift.
‚ÄúOut of school drama is happening every day,‚ÄĚ said Brevoort. ‚ÄúThere is no sanctuary anymore. A generation ago you were able to leave school and take a break from it. Now, with social media, there is a 24-hour cycle of trauma. It builds and builds and takes so much intervention to de-escalate.‚ÄĚ
Brevoort said that No Bully would also do training with parents to give them strategies for intervening with cyber bullying.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.