Wednesday, February 14, 2007

OUSD Stages Antibullying Classes

By Sondra Murphy
In an effort to improve school climate, nearly 40 students and six staff members from Matilija Junior High gathered on Monday and Tuesday to train in the Safe Schools Ambassadors program. As the school bus stopped in front of the St. Thomas Aquinas facility, students enthusiastically exited and seemed ready to get down to business.
Facilitated by Teddy Wright of Community Matters, SSA is a program that is designed to give students the skills to intervene during negative interactions among peers. “You are here because teachers and students have identified you as leaders,” Wright told the participants. “This might be something you are interested in doing. There will be challenges, choices and opportunities.”
Representatives from Matilija’s various student groups were invited to learn how to be a positive force on campus. “Staff and students identify the socially influential youth on campus, the opinion leaders of every clique and group,” the SSA website elaborates. “Working together with adults, they develop a deeper understanding of the problem of mistreatment on their campus, and learn powerful communication and intervention skills.”
SSA cites that students are often reluctant to intervene in bullying incidents because they do not know what to say or do to stop conflicts. Other times, students ignore cruelty out of fear that the aggressors might turn on them.
“I found out a lot of people have stuff in common with me,” said participant Hailey Johnson. “I didn’t know how many people have been teased.” She believes this knowledge will help her speak up when she witnesses others being bullied.
Matilija’s assistant principal, John Schweller, is one of the staff participating in the SSA training program. “This is teaching students how to communicate better,” he said. “Hopefully, the increase in communication skills will help de-escalate problems.” By involving students from different groups around campus, the chances for success are improved.
The program equips participants with nonviolent communication and intervention skills which are designed to prevent and stop cruelty and violence. As ambassadors use their new skills with their friends, their confidence increases so that they become more likely to intervene in situations beyond their personal cliques.
Wright informed the group that students are both the primary targets and aggressors at school. He shared stories about student cruelty with the group and asked participants to read stories written by students who had been targeted by bullies.
Role-playing and cooperation exercises fostered participant interaction and bonding.
Wright led students in activities to strengthen vocabulary and techniques which break the cycle of pain, rage and revenge. Communication, especially listening, was emphasized early in the training session.
The ambassadors-in-training are eager to use their new skills at their school. “We learned how to stop fights between people before anything goes wrong,” Taylor Young said.
“They’ll listen more to us because we’re their peers,” said Krista Petler.
“We can help stop things before violence happens,” added Micaela Lowry.
The Safe Schools Ambassadors Programs works in collaboration with other mediation and counseling programs already in use, offering more immediate intervention as issues arise. The ambassadors will participate in regular meetings run by trained staff members to help them sharpen their skills and deepen their commitment throughout the school year.
Nordhoff and Chaparral High students are scheduled to begin training in the SSA program Wednesday and Thursday.
Photo by Rob Clement


evan austin said...

beautiful. in the peaceful world i envision and work for, this kind of training is a norm. kudos to the OUSD for being progressive about this!

Anonymous said...

It's about time!!!!

Bullying in the schools is why I no longer talk to anyone in my hometown (not Ojai but in the same county). And, it's been that way for more than 20 years!

Thank God, I've lived out of state since the 1980s. I don't miss California one bit!

Bullying in the schools is why i have very little respect for California and its ratty school systems!! (I'd use a stronger word but I don't want this to be deleted!).

It's not a matter of progressive, liberal or conservative. I was bullied by the "liberal" kids because I was a "nerd" who respected the purpose of school which is to STUDY.

You can have your hippy-dippy California idiot dreams of peace. Meanwhile, I believe the teachers need to exert some AUTHORITY. Your California schools have FAILED since the 1970s.

California schools were the best in the nation in the 1950s and early 1960s until Jarvis-Gann (conservative) combined with hippy-dippy non-disciplinarian administrators (liberals, obviously) ruined them.

No one CARED.

That is why I left your STUPID, functionally illiterate state!

And, I'm glad I did!