PLATTSBURGH — Tuesday kicks off Anti-Bullying Awareness Month at Lake Placid Central School District.
The school board voted at its Sept. 17 meeting to highlight this issue, as it has done in past years.
"Certainly, we like to shine a spotlight on it because the effort that we put into both promoting positive relationships and responding to bullying, harassment, other negative behaviors is something that goes on year-round," Lake Placid Superintendent of Schools Dr. Roger P. Catania said.
At the national level, schools, communities and organizations who participate in National Bullying Prevention Month "work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying and put an end to hatred and racism by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of all forms of bullying on all children of all ages," according to the nonprofit STOMP Out Bullying's website.
BE THE 'I' IN 'KIND'
Much of Lake Placid Central's anti-bullying efforts have to do with addressing the need for additional empathy and responding to the isolation some children can feel, Catania said.
For example, the elementary school has a very active PBIS — Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports — program.
In the school photograph, taken last week, all of the elementary students and faculty spelled out the word "kind" where the "I" was blue and the other letters were white.
"The statement for that was, 'Be the 'I' in 'kind,'" Catania explained.
"So they’re promoting positive relationships, positive school culture, positive actions towards each other."
The elementary school also has a leadership club for fourth- and fifth-graders who promote such initiatives as "Mix It Up at Lunch" day, where students are randomly assigned to different lunch tables, and Kindness Week, where they come up with different activities, Catania said.
For many years, Lake Placid has also offered the Primary Project for its kindergarten through third-grade students.
The project helps these students "adjust to school, gain confidence, social skills, and focus on learning," according to its website.
Lake Placid's version consists of a play room staffed by someone who is highly trained to support these children, Catania said.
The district also has school counselors and school psychologists on hand to help students who experience bullying.
"We have all kinds of team organizations at the elementary, middle and high school that assess ... students and determine how they’re doing and whether or not they could benefit from some additional services," Catania said.
Students might then be referred to counseling or mentoring, or even connected to an activity.
At the middle school level, students can participate in Lake Placid Middle School Connections for Change, a student-led effort to encourage everyone to "walk a mile in each other's shoes," Catania said.
He added that a new effort implemented this year was to have middle and high school students as well as teachers take a survey that highlights their strengths, which would then be utilized throughout the school year.
"This year, also at the middle and high school, they’ve created a Positive Culture Committee," Catania said.
That group tries to shift the focus from the negative to building more positive relationships and school culture.
LONG WAY TO GO
Catania said the most important change he has seen in his career with regard to bullying is that it is now under the spotlight.
"I think that what we now identify and address as often and as hard as we can are behaviors that have been going on for many, many years."
Instead, the impact of those behaviors were minimized, overlooked, ignored or simply perceived as a right of passage, he continued.
"That’s no longer the case, so I really think that number one change has been awareness, information and response to it.
"It’s no longer okay to ignore bullying, but I think for many, many years it really was."
Though schools work hard to combat bullying, students still experience this problem every day on their phones, in the cafeteria and on the bus, Catania said.
"We still have a really long way to go."
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