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Cedar Forest and Riverview elementary schools implement proactive anti-bullying program.
Cedar Forest Elementary's proactive effort against bullying includes flying banners for days without reports of problems at school or on buses.
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By PAMELA GOULD
Third-graders in Christie Hall's class at Cedar Forest Elementary gathered in a circle on the floor on a recent Monday morning to begin their weekly anti-bullying meeting.
She passed around a can containing slips of paper with different scenarios for students to pull out and discuss.
Like what to do if someone drops a note on the floor and you see that it contains mean words about a classmate.
Or what to do if you're on the playground and notice one child standing off to the side alone.
Or what to do if you're standing in the cafeteria line and hear someone say one of your classmates is "dumb."
Hall's students knew appropriate responses to each scenario thanks to an anti-bullying program instituted at the Spotsylvania County elementary school in January.
Cedar Forest and Riverview elementary schools started using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program last winter thanks to federal stimulus funds.
Every school in Spotsylvania addresses bullying to some degree, but Cedar Forest Principal David Strawn sought a program targeting the issue after reviewing responses from parents and students to a survey conducted in fall 2008.
"It was really a big concern in the community," Strawn said.
Bullying is a concern for schools nationwide, with such behavior leading to suicides and retaliation such as school shootings and other violence. A 2012 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five high school students had been bullied on school property during 2011.
In addition, 22 percent of high school girls reported being the victim of cyber bullying either via emails, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites or texting, the report found. Boys reported cyber bullying at a lower level, with nearly 11 percent reporting it.
Strawn's hope is to attack the problem at the elementary level, with the hope that early education can prevent it at the upper levels.
"You just hope and pray they will carry it on when they go on to middle and high school," he said.
His staff researched the issue and realized an approach was needed to first educate students and staff about what bullying is and isn't.
"Children need to understand the difference between bullying and conflict," Strawn said. "Just because you don't get your way doesn't mean it was bullying."
1. We will not bully others.2. We will try to help students who are bullied. 3. We will try to include students who are left out. 4. If we know that somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and at home.
--Olweus Bullying Prevention
CEDAR FOREST'S BULLY-FREE CHANT
No more bullying at our school.
It isn't nice and it isn't cool.
Every school has a right to be
safe and fun and bully-free!