Enterprise students attend a Kindness Assembly called “Respect, Responsibility and Rock and Roll” earlier this school year. At the event, high school students presented lessons on responsibility, actions and respect for each other to children in grades K through 3.
by KATY NESBITT / The Observer
Programs in Wallowa County schools aim to reduce the prevalence of bullying
Bullying is an age-old problem in schools getting increased attention by Wallowa County schools. Each of Wallowa County’s districts take bullying seriously to provide safe environments to bring up children with healthy attitudes.
At the Joseph School, Principal Sherri Kilgore said besides the typical school policies and procedures, she is really proud of a program the district adopted called “Positive Behavior Interventions and Support” or PBIS — centered around three concepts: be respectful, responsible and safe. Kilgore said the entire staff was trained in the principles of Positive Behavior Interventions and Support and for it to work the whole school system had to buy into it.
“The key to this is you teach those concepts and work with them all year,” Kilgore said.
In the Joseph School, Kilgore said the staff tries to focus on good behavior first and awards “eagle feathers” as rewards for doing the right thing.
“The ideal is kids want to be good and it has changed our school, it really works,” Kilgore said.
Administrators at all three districts said the focus for respecting others and quelling bullying is targeted at the elementary level. Kilgore said by sixth grade the kids should know better and there is a consequence for bad behavior, but the emphasis on respect continues throughout high school. At the beginning of each year, even before curriculums are discussed, expected behavior is emphasized in the classrooms.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 6 or 18, we continue to teach these goals,” said Kilgore. “Our kids have stepped up and bought into PBIS. The first year we did it in K-6 and the second year in 7-12. Some of the teachers had the training in previous jobs so that really helped,” Kilgore said.
In 2011, the Joseph elementary students were moved up to the high school building and for little and big kids to share a hallway, a new procedure was put in place. The older kids were told they could not take up the entire hall, they needed to make room for the elementary kids so they could get around and be safe.
Kilgore said the program takes a proactive approach — trying to prevent bullying before it happens. Above the lockers in the hallways are constant reminders of the students’ definitions of respectful, responsible and safe. “Constant daily things,” she said. “That’s just how we act here.”
Bret Uptmor, Wallowa School superintendent, said the staff of his district encourage students to “do the right thing” by remembering to thank people for their help and recognizing each other for the good things they do.
He called it “putting things into people’s buckets” — accolades for proper treatment. This theory was taught in an assembly recently. Another way of promoting proper behavior is the “Buddy Board” that highlights good things that kids do in the elementary school. Similar to Joseph’s “feathers” the board has seasonal paper cut-outs, like a snowflake or a heart, with a student’s name on it to commend them for something good they did.
A program on the harmful affects of bullying is taught in sixth and seventh grade, and in the high school respect for each other is an on-going education. He said literature is provided for teachers to address behavior issues.
“Education doesn’t always work,” said Uptmor, “and we stop kids who act in that manner.”
Uptmor said the district has tracked data of bullying trends for the past five or six years and is moving toward the same PBIS program that Joseph uses.
“The data will show if there are rises or drops. I’m excited that this is where we’re going in hopes to decrease negative activity,” Uptmor said.
At the Enterprise School District, Superintendent Brad Royse said they, too, start with the K-3 grades to stop the seeds of disrespect and bullying and continue working with the kids through eighth grade.
Attitudes and behaviors start at home, said Royse, but if certain language is brought to the school, the student is stopped immediately.
“If a kid calls someone ‘gay,’ he’s called on it,” said Royse.
He said what young kids hear at home is often repeated at school so teaching respectful behavior is concentrated on the youngest students.
A long-running program of the high school’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America or FCCLA is “Kindness Week.” Club members go into the grade school with a different topic each year, but the thrust is learning respectful behavior.
The club’s adviser, Debbie Hadden said they’ve been conduction Kindness Week for 15 years, a program that came out of the Columbine High School shootings.
Hadden said, “We always talk about ways to be nice to other people. This year we focused on communicating; how we are upset without using our hands, and to build someone up with positive statements.”
The week starts with a 40-minute presentation to the K-3 grades. The FCCLA students perform a skit, lead games and have hands-on, interactive activities that usually focus on some aspect of being kind to other people.
This year’s theme was “Respect, Responsibility, and Rock and Roll,” Hadden said.
“We talk about how to become friends and how to commit random acts of kindness.”
After the assembly, the teachers focus on the theme in class the rest of the week, Hadden said.
“Then we have a giant celebration the first day of the next week that involves a reminder of the things they’ve learned. We teach them a song, play games, have food, and a craft activity that lasts an hour. All 47 club members interact with 120 of those little guys,” Hadden said.