October is recognized as Bullying Prevention Month by schools, businesses, and organizations nationwide. In the Johnston Community School District, administrators, teachers, and staff take time to create a culture of kindness in every school.
In recent years, the media has highlighted the impact bullying can have on youth. For Johnston Middle School principal Brian Carico, he saw the media as the perfect avenue to convey a message of acceptance and tolerance within the middle school.
“I went through training this summer and felt like our students and overall building atmosphere needed improvement in the area of kindness,” Carico said. “I learned about the ‘Finding Kind’ documentary and thought it would be a good message to send to students this age.”
Finding Kind is a documentary of two young women and their mothers who travel across America, interviewing hundreds of females about the “mean girl” phenomenon, including how modern culture influences this behavior. The Finding Kind documentary is part of the Kind Campaign, which, according to its website, is “An internationally recognized movement, document, and school program based upon the powerful belief in KINDness, that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl ‘crime.’”
On September 27, female students at Johnston Middle School had the opportunity to watch the documentary and listen to producers Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson. Many took the “kind pledge” and moved toward creating a different culture in the middle school. The public had an opportunity to see the film that evening.
“Girls seem to hold their grudges and continue their conflicts for years,” Carico said. “I think the most important thing the girls can take away from this is the long lasting and devastating feelings that bullying creates.”
Professional development activities have been delivered by Johnston school counselors to help staff identify bullying behavior and know the steps to take to support the targeted student.
At the elementary school level, school counselors work to bring age-appropriate messages of bullying prevention to students. Timber Ridge Elementary counselor Jan Maronn said there are school-wide anti-bullying activities on October 1 where students are encouraged to wear blue to show that they support the “Stomp Out Bullying” campaign.
“October is a good time to bring awareness to kids and get them thinking about those key messages; in the spring, we spend an entire unit on bullying,” Maronn said. “For example, in fourth and fifth grade, we have students look at the Board of Education policy on bullying and then break that language down to kid-friendly terms and what it really means. By understanding the forms of bullying, strategies to stop bullying, and ways to seek help from adults when needed, kids become empowered to act.”
Whether it’s a month-long effort or a continuous message, educators in Johnston schools have dedicated themselves to creating a better atmosphere and learning culture for all students.
“Bullying impacts everyone,” Maronn said. “And we all have a responsibility to act when we see it happening.”