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Cotaco School and Jordan Allena

Posted: 3/10/2019

Students at Cotaco School were so passionate about preventing bullying in their schools that they decided to survey their classmates about the state of bullying at their school. But their commitment didn’t end there. Students in the Talented and Gifted program got the chance to contribute to a song performed by country singer Jordan Allena about bullying called “It Ain’t Cool to be Cruel.” And they were rewarded for their efforts by hosting Jordan Allena for a full-blown concert at their school!

The students’ teacher writes:

Once the students heard their song on the radio they were passionate about meeting Jordan Allena and having her host a school-wide concert to kick off the anti-bullying campaign. Seth Sullivan with Sullivan’s Productions and WZYP’s Mojo turned the school into a smoked filled, lighting spectacular event to showcase the debut of the song, “It Ain’t Cool to be Cruel.” Students sang the lyrics and danced to the jamming country sound as the music video was shot. Cotaco School students had the opportunity to share their message on a national platform in hopes that their words may reach one person in need and make a difference. We have had the pleasure of hosting Jordan at all of our Morgan County Schools as students get on board to stamp out bullying. The TAG students believe that together they can make a difference…it is their passion!

Here’s what Jordan had to say about the project:

I took to this song because I have been bullied my entire life - mostly because I was always running against the grain - so to speak :) People are so cruel and sometimes without even realizing it! Those words really hit home to me - it's truly NOT cool to be cruel. It's actually small and lazy; it's harder to think about someone else first and what our actions can do to others...a challenge I want people to think about. Bullies are and will be in our lives always, but we can encourage a different way to think about life and others and a different way of reacting to them and their behavior. We should celebrate our differences and our uniqueness!

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Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Host Inaugural Unity Day Event

Posted: 3/5/2019

Queen Anne County Public SchoolQueen Anne's County Public Schools hosted its inaugural Unity Day event on Wednesday, Oct. 9. During the day Ravens cheerleaders, super fans and Looney Tunes Characters visited each school to promote bullying prevention. At the start of the school day every student and school employee was given a "Bullying stops with me" T-shirt to help spread the message – about 10,000 shirts! The goal was to have all school employees demonstrate their commitment to bullying prevention to their students. The purchase of these shirts was made possible by the generous support of parents, community members and local businesses. Linda Austin, community member and owner of Rita's, was the force behind providing over 10,000 t-shirts for the students and staff of Queen Anne's County. She and her co-chair for the event Stephanie Jarrel from the Queen Anne's County Sheriff's office worked tirelessly to make the event successful.

Also during the day each elementary school revealed a Friendship Bench, a bench for those to sit on if they ever feel left out. After the students get into their new shirts, students from each school will be taken out to fields on school property and spell out “no bullying.” Visitors to county schools included Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders, Captain Dee-Fense, The Oriole Bird and various Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags.

The efforts of Queen Anne’s County aren’t limited to October 9th. District and school administrators have developed a plan to extend the Olweus bullying prevention program from the few schools it’s in now to every school in the county by 2014. Supervisor of Student Services Brad Engel also reached out to community members to create a committee to work in conjunction with the schools to prevent bullying.

For Engel, bullying is a personal issue. During his teen years he was a target of bullying and as a father; he has seen his own son go through the same thing. “I can tell you that there are a lot of parents all across the country who have had many a sleepless night worrying about their children becoming targets of bullying. We can greatly reduce the number of bullying incidents in our schools. I know we can…I have talked to many of our staff members and they feel just like I do. They want to make sure that every child in Queen Anne’s County is able to walk into their school each day with their heads held high and that all children in the Queen Anne’s County school system are treated with dignity and respect. We won’t rest until that goal is achieved.”

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“iStand” and Citrus Grove Elementary

Posted: 1/1/2013

In 2012, Shawna Hixon and Lana Barros from Citrus Grove Elementary in Palm City, Florida led an innovative program, “iSTAND”, which they designed to creatively engage students to take action against bullying. In an interview with Shawna, she provides information about the origin of the initiative, what it took to be successful, and the resources for starting an iSTANDER group at your school.

Shawna writes, “At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, while going over the SAC survey that students complete every year, I was alarmed at how many students were concerned with bullying incidents at our school.  I thought that if it was a strong enough feeling for them to mention it on the survey, then it was worth looking into and investigating further.  I had always thought of bullying being a problem in the middle and high schools. To my surprise, it was just as big of a problem at the elementary level.  Unfortunately, at this level, children do not understand that it is not okay, it does not have to happen and there is somewhere to turn.  I was then on a mission to bring the survey to the attention of our administrators in hopes to start a bully awareness club at our school.”

Shawna shared that in her research she discovered two elements that seemed critical for success. The first was about funding, like most schools, hers had minimal budget for new activities, so it needed to be something that required minimal resources and financial commitment. The second, was based on how to best engage students on the issue, her research showed that students were more likely listen to and follow peers rather than adults.  With those two things in mind, she decided on an approach that was student oriented with strong, influential peers and hands on ideas made from scratch. 

The next step was to secure permission from administration, and once she had the “go-ahead”, she approached Mrs. Lana Barros for her help and support. Together, they worked on a name for the group, ideas such “Bully Busters”, “Stomp Out Bullying”, were suggested, but none seemed to fit. They didn’t want students walking around like Ghostbusters, jumping in to try to solve issues on their own or anything that may look like we wanted students to take things into their own hands.  Shawna said that, “as we were researching different ways to deal with bullying situations that were appropriate for students of our age levels, we noticed that a lot of scenarios encourage students to take a stand.  To stand up for friends who may be getting bullied, to stand up to the bully if it’s their self who is the target and to take a stand to spread the word about bully awareness.  As a result, “iStand” was born.  During one of our first meetings, I was explaining to the kids what our mission would be, which is to promote bully awareness, so that students know others are watching and will take steps to interject instead of standing by and letting it happen.  Their role would be to model positive behaviors, to encourage others to take a stand by using the tools we discuss during our meetings and to take a stand themselves if they see bullying either by standing up or getting help when needed.  Then, voila, the phrase, “Be an iStander, not a bystander”, came out.  It just fit and the students loved it.”

Now that the group had a name, they needed activities. Shawna, knowing that they were proceeding with a budget, went online, and this is where she found PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. On the site she found numerous resources to use with the clubShe shared that, “they decided to declare a “Bully Awareness Week” and include activities such as a poster contest with the theme, “Be an iStander, not a bystander”, “iStand for……….” cards that the whole school filled out and we displayed in the atrium while spelling out “iStand” with them, an “I am different” chain piece to where each student wrote something on their piece that made them different, then we linked them all together to show that we can all be different but still respect each other and get along.  On the last day we had a “Wear your favorite team” shirt to go along with the being different, but still being friends idea.”

The initial response from the students was overwhelming positive and that’s when they knew that “iSTAND” was going to make a difference.

When asked the keys to being successful with the initiative, Shawna said,

  • The key to bully awareness is to keep the awareness visible.  
  • iStand does this by teaching the tools that students can use through skits portraying actual school incidents that the students encounter at various times of the day done by the iStand group. 
  • Examples would be the playground, the cafeteria, extended day, in the hallways, in the classroom, etc.  We get this information by having student feedback discussions during our meetings.  It’s at this time that we get to see bullying through the student’s eyes as well as how they feel it is being handled by teachers and/or administration at our school. 
  • We also keep awareness visible through posters students have made, showing the videos our iStand group makes on the morning school news, on stage skits during early release assemblies and varies activities we may come up with that involve the whole student body. 
  • Our guidance counselor, Mr. Scholl, has also started referencing our iStand group when talking to students about bullying and character counts, explaining to the classes what being an “iStander, not a bystander” represents. 

Shawna also has plans for the future, which include:

  • Share the  iStand program with other schools.  We have found that awareness through our students is the best way to get the message out there.  Using the iStand group as tools through skits, videos and modeling behavior keeps the budget low and the interest from their peers high.  We use online resources, such as the PACER site which has a lot of valuable tools, as well as others you can find on the internet.  Using “iStand “ in elementary schools across the board would not only increase awareness at an early age, but also give school groups a chance to share ideas of what activities are working to bring and keep the awareness alive among the students and staff. 
  • Create a branch of “iStand” to incorporate it in the middle schools, using the campaign name, “Demonstrate Don’t Intimidate” slogan.  In the elementary schools we use “Be an iStander, not a bystander”.  While we can still use that in the middle schools, we also want to focus on those students with strong personalities to be an example and use that strength to demonstrate positive role modeling among their peers.  At the elementary level, even though they happen, we try to keep all of the grim consequences of bullying out of the meetings and activities.  At the middle school level we will go a little more into the desperate measures that students may take to escape the pain of and avoid bullying, both at school and  through technology (internet, cell phone, etc.), in order to target the specifics of bullying at their age level. 

Shawna has offered to share several of the resources from the toolkit that she and Lana developed, these free resources include:

“We can do so much with so little if it’s presented in the right ways.  Just knowing someone is watching, listening and willing to stand up could mean the world to that one person who dreads going to school every day.” Shawna Hixon

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