STARS educates Hamilton County schools on bullying prevention

STARS educates Hamilton County schools on bullying prevention

April 5th, 2012 by Katie Ward in Local Regional News

Karen Glenn was targeted by a bully growing up, so she knows how students feel in the situation, which is prevalent in Hamilton County - and that's only based on reported incidences.

As the director of STARS, she now helps others in that situation, utilizing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program for the Hamilton County school district to train teachers to educate their students on how to stop bullying in their schools.

STARS Director Karen Glenn holds materials she uses to train teachers in Hamilton County schools on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. STARS is an acronym for Students Taking a Right Stand.

Photo by Katie Ward

"I know what it's like to be afraid to go to school and not be able to focus on academics," said Glenn, who attended a Hamilton County elementary school at the time she was bullied. "A classmate of mine bullied me and I was terrified. I used to sit in the teacher parking lot after school to hide. One day he hit me in the face."

Glenn said the sad thing was it was an "elephant in the closet" and no one reported it.

"One of the goals [of the Olweus curriculum in Hamilton County schools] is to see increases of students reporting bullying so we can address it," said Glenn. "Increases in reporting mean decreases in discipline referrals because the problem is addressed before it escalates."

According to Olweus statistics, schools using the curriculum see a 20- to 70-percent reduction of bullying incidents.

"Television, movies, video games, music and cartoons reflect bullying behaviors as a societal norm," Glenn said. "This is why Olweus classroom teaching lessons are so important. The majority of the students that see bullying behavior don't like it but don't know what to do. The empathy level is high so we want to show them how to be a good friend and report the behavior."

She said nationally 18 percent of students have reported being subjected to bullying behavior. She said in Hamilton County schools 18 percent of students are bullied as well.

Glenn said bullying is defined as a repetitive, intentional and aggressive behavior. Based on the Olweus program, teachers host class conversations about bullying, empathy development, socialization skills, friendships and healthy interaction with one another.

She said students being bullied are taught to tell administrators "I'm being bullied and I need an intervention."

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program aims to reduce existing bullying problems among students, prevent the development of new bullying problems and achieve better peer relations in schools.

"You teach students to support the person being bullied instead of laughing and teasing," Glenn said.

"On the Spot Intervention Bullying" posters line the walls of Hamilton County schools to show teachers what to do when encountering a bullying situation. The poster says to stop the bullying, support the student who is being bullied, name bullying behaviors and refer to school rules. More rules say to engage the bystanders, impose immediate and appropriate consequences and take steps to ensure bullied students will be protected from future bullying.

"We want to have an aggressive campaign to prevent it," said Glenn. "Bullying is a community issue because our schools are a reflection of the community. Some people think that general teasing is commonplace, but that's bullying that can escalate."

She said when a student reports being bullied the school building administrator investigates the problem. Then, administrators determine what type of action should be taken to stop the bullying behavior.