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PECMS Adopts Bullying Prevention Program

Prince Edward County Middle School has adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and will host a kick-off event for the community on Sept. 22 at the high school track.

The event, Taking Strides Against Bullying, is a pledge walk, with participants signing a pledge to help reduce bullying. Walkers will pay $1 per person to walk, with the money going to help finance events for students held as part of the prevention program.

“We want this to be a really big event, to see the community and the school pull together. Participants can walk as many laps as they want or just enjoy the booths and concessions,” said Ms. Teresa Vance, the organizer of the pledge walk.

School clubs and groups, as well as community organizations, will showcase positive activities for children and how these activities can help prevent bullying.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program was designed to prevent or reduce bullying at the elementary, middle and junior high school levels.

After three Norwegian teenagers committed suicide in 1983, possibly as a result of severe bullying, the Norwegian Ministry of Education commissioned Dr. Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen to design a prevention program. The Olweus Program is now widely used there, as well as in the United States, England and Germany. Dr. Olweus worked with Dr. Sue Limber and Dr. Gary Melton at the University of South Carolina to adapt and evaluate the program in the U.S.

The program's results generally show a 30 to 70 percent reduction in student reports of being bullied and a significant reduction in general anti-social behavior, including vandalism, fighting, theft and truancy, according to literature provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

All students in the school will participate in certain aspects of the program, including regular classroom meetings about bullying and peer relations. The program also requires the development of school-wide rules against bullying and a coordinated system of supervision while students are changing classes.

Staff members will also conduct individual meetings with students and with parents of students who are identified as being bullied, or who are bullying others. All school staff will have training in the program and members of the school's Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee will meet monthly for additional training.

“Prince Edward County Middle School may not have the serious situations we see on the news, but we never want to get to that point. Please make room in your schedule to (help with this initiative),” Ms. Vance said.

PECMS Principal Lucy Carson said it is important to maintain an environment where students feel safe to learn.

“The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program provides a wonderful opportunity for the school and community to come together to address the problem of bullying. We are excited about our 'Taking Strides Against Bullying' event and hope that the community comes out to support us,” she said.

For further information about the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, see http://modelprograms.samhsa.gov or call the PECMS guidance office at (434)315-2120. For information on the “Taking Strides Against Bullying” kick-off event, call Dr. Maurice Smith, assistant principal, or Ms. Teresa Vance at PECMS, (434) 315-2120.