Baldwin-Whitehall implements new anti-bullying program in district
Baldwin-Whitehall School District is implementing a new anti-bullying program called “Let's Get Real.”
The program features a film demonstrating situations where bullying occurs, accompanied with a 12-period model to help teachers discuss sensitive topics with students such as suicide, prejudice and offensive language. The program is suited for students in sixth grade through high school.
Anti-bullying programs have been in place for 20 years, but the new program is more comprehensive district-wide, said Annette Giovanazzi, social worker at Baldwin High School.
Social workers compiled a booklet called “Let's Get Real about Bullying” and distributed and explained it to staff.
“For it to be an effective approach, you have to start from the top down, “Giovanazzi said. “We met with the entire staff and explained the booklet to them. Just to get all the adults on board with what bullying is and what it looks like.”
Bullying is more than name-calling. It has to be an intentional action repeated over time. Inappropriate behaviors will still be addressed, but aren't necessarily bullying, Giovanazzi said.
Nicole Lewis, 10th-grade English teacher, said she recognizes the signs after being bullied as a child. In middle school, peers used to call Lewis names, toilet papered her house and made fun of her clothes, she said.
“Usually the kids that are being affected by bullying will never come to anyone,” Lewis said. “They just aren't that kind of kid. It's really important for other teachers and students to notice.”
The program is still being developed at the high school, but staff is stressing positive connections with student and staff, Giovanazzi said.
At the elementary level, teachers refer back to the previously used Second Step program to help students identify the problem.
“Teachers will prompt students to solve the problem verbally by asking questions to help students select the appropriate steps,” said Sarah Faulx, social worker at W.R. Paynter Elementary School. “Then they will follow up to make sure that the problem has been resolved.”
Recurring incidents merit a visit to the principal's office and a call to the parents.
“My own personal rule is, if a child has visited the office, I go home,” said Daniel Emanuelson, principal at McAnnulty Elementary School.
Components of the Second Step program focus on emotional management, empathy and problem solving.
Social workers will be making regular visits to classrooms throughout the school year to teach character-building skills. The lessons will include interactive activities like puppets, music and skits at the fourth- and fifth-grade levels, Faulx said.
Handouts also will be sent home to parents.
Staff at McAnnulty held an assembly at the beginning of the school year to teach students what behaviors are expected of them.
Staff members also remind students that what they say should be true, kind and necessary.
“We don't want to just teach our kids academics,” Emanuelson said. “We want to teach them how to get along with each other. One of the major hindrances of a work place is that people don't get along with each other.”
Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.