Otsego fights bullying PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN, Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 09 December 2013 10:17
This poster will be placed in Otsego school buildings to show support in spreading an anti-bullying message. (Image provided by Otsego Schools)
WESTON - Being kind can be a positive approach to suppressing bullying. The Otsego Local Schools are continuing to build on their quest to minimize if not eliminate bullying in their community. They are now taking the message out to the four villages within the district.
On Monday Cindy Johnson, a counselor with the elementary school, appeared before the Weston Village Council seeking and receiving their support. Johnson said it was the third of four meetings, having previously received support from both Tontogany and Haskins. Her next visit will be to Grand Rapids.
Johnson noted the district is using the Olweus bullying prevention program through grant money in cooperation with the Wood County Educational Service Center.
This year's theme is "It's COOL to be Kind" and each elementary student received band bracelets with the theme on one side and "Kindness Starts With Me" on the other. 
Students who are "caught" being kind are rewarded with a card recognizing their accomplishment. That card is turned in to receive a "kindness" pencil which changes colors based on the warmth of the students' hands.
The program is also active in the junior high with bracelets being given to the students caught being good. A mentoring program is also being developed.
After explaining some of the details to the council, she showed them posters which are being placed in all the school buildings showing the support of all the communities using the theme of "Taking a Stand, Lending a Hand." Each poster will be surrounded with signed support letters from each of the four village officials.
With copies of those documentation of support, Johnson says they want all the businesses in the district to display their support and the district has created a poster which can be displayed in their front windows focusing on kindness.
It reads, in part, "KINDNESS It Starts With You. Pass it On!" Underneath that headline are nearly two dozen suggestions of ways to be kind.
The four members of council in attendance and the mayor all gave their support and signed the letter.
All Otsego staff members were trained in August of 2011 on the Olweus system with the kickoff of the program being held for the 2011-2012 school year. The first year Johnson said was focused on educating students on how to identify bullying.
Johnson explained the Olweus system was chosen because to comply with the grant, there needed to be documentation and this system provided that documentation of its success.
Last year the school focused on the theme of respect. Posters highlighted the need to respect others, themselves and their school. Students earned prizes for being respectful and making good choices in how they treated others.
Johnson noted part of their ongoing training is teaching that the most important person(s) in a bullying scenario is not the actual ones involved, it is the bystander(s).
"If those observing the bullying speak up and support the one being bullied, it reduces the power of the bully," she said.
Following the meeting, she explained that combatting bullying is an ongoing process.
"Students and others sometimes think that any confrontation in the schools is bullying and it is not," Johnson said.
She explained the components needed to be considered bullying are threefold: first it has to be ongoing and repetitive, second it has to be intentionally hurtful, and third, there has to be a factor of the bully having some power over the one being bullied.
She said that power naturally can be in size or strength, but it can also be in numbers of the bully having others behind him or her; it can also be socioeconomic, or even something as simple as the one being bullied not having the confidence to speak up.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 10:56

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