While students had the day off Sept. 10, district staff were trained in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
A team of 20 employees went through the training over the summer. With Wellington High School principal Tina Drake at the helm, they led a three-hour session for all district staff, and then smaller group practiced related exercises for another two hours.
The program was started by Norwegian psychology professor Dan Olweus, who conducted the world’s first long-term study on bullying in the 1980s.
His book, “Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do” has been published in 25 languages.
It claims to reduce instances of reported bullying in schools by half and cut down on other negative behaviors including vandalism, fighting, theft, and truancy.
One activity for the smaller groups is called “Who’s the bully?” It examines bullying situations that can occur between two students, a student and an adult, or even two adults.
“A bully can come from so many places,” superintendent Ed Weber said. “Sometimes students bully students. Sometimes students bully teachers. Sometimes teachers bully students or each other. Those concepts are happening in many different relationships and the training raises your awareness to stop bullying but also make sure you’re not being the bully. It can be something as small as cutting someone in the coffee line.”
“It’s important for all of us to be united in our approach and in our reaction to these situations,” he said. “Sometimes when a teacher allows students to pick their own partners for a project, it can create a situation where someone can end up feeling bullied or rejected.”
As part of the community-wide effort, Wellington businesses will hang anti-bullying posters. Olweus training will be discussed with parents on district curriculum nights, which will be held Sept. 24 at WHS, Sept. 25 at McCormick Middle School, and Sept. 26 at Westwood Elementary School.
“Olweus is a curriculum so why not discuss it with the rest of our curriculum?” Weber said. “We teach it as a class and kids will be talking about it in class meetings every week. Learning respect for others is going to reduce bullying. We’re going to get more responses out of the program and more positive results than just reducing bullying. It’s very comprehensive.”
The fight against bullying in Wellington has intensified over the past two years, partly due to the loss of two students who took their own lives.
In 2017, the Rachel’s Challenge program came to WHS for the first time. It is named in honor of Rachel Scott, the first student gunned down in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. That messaging led to the creation of an anti-bullying Friends of Rachel club at WHS.
In January, the Lorain County Board of Mental Health held suicide prevention classes at WHS and Applewood Centers, an Elyria-based counseling service, conducted classes on dealing with stress for ninth- and 1oth-graders.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.