Commodore students ready to ‘catch’ bullying

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Olweus program under way, promotes respect

By Vince Luecke

LEOPOLD – A new program will en-courage Perry Central elementary and high-school students to treat one another with respect and to “catch” instances when students violate those rules and bully one another.

A rally Aug. 20 kicked off the Olweus anti-bullying program for elementary students and last week saw the start of the program for high-schoolers. In their boisterous assembly, elementary students pledged their willingness to treat their fellow learners  well.

“We want everyone to feel safe at school and that means we treat others like we want to be treated,” said Ray James, the school’s principal.

“If you see something happen to a student you would not want to happen to you, tell someone.”

Elementary cheerleaders held signs with letters that spelled, “CATCH,” an acronym for Commodores Against Teasing, Cruelty and Hurting.

Each student also left the assembly with a ball carrying the same message.

The nearly hour-long event included skits with an emcee and others playing the roles of school bullies who tease classmates over small differences, including physical appearance and athletic abilities. The school mascot, Commodore Man, was on hand to identify offenders and he led bullies away to wild cheers.

Goals of the Olweus system, which is used in schools around the globe, are to reduce and prevent bullying problems to help improve student comfort levels inside and out of the classroom. Reducing school bullying has also been shown to reduce related behavioral problems, improves attendance and helps ensure students can focus their attention on learning. It also offers teachers and counselors suggestions for helping bullies change.

Tell City-Troy Township Schools are in the second year of the Olweus program and staff there – and the success of their efforts – are good sources of information. A kickoff for Tell City students was held Friday.

“There’s a real sense of collaboration between our county’s schools, not just in the Olweus program but in sharing information that helps promote the healthy development of children in our communities,” said Lisa Lutgring, project coordinator for the Safe Schools-Healthy Students program.

Perry Central and Tell City-Troy Township School are receiving $2.9 million under a four-year grant to fund anti-bullying, violence prevention, mental-health services and school-based supports to lessen the chances of students using alcohol, tobacco products or illegal drugs. The schools hope to receive a fifth year of funding.

The program is now in its second year and staff hired over the past year are hard at work providing services, Lutgring said. The grant allowed schools to hire or retain counselors and family-outreach coordinators and supports collaboration between school staff and mental-health professionals and youth probation departments.

Safe Schools-Healthy Students also provides early-childhood services and helps preschools implement successful curricula for students that ensure youngsters are ready for kindergarten.