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TZ says 'We're not gonna take it' to bullying

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Greencastle High School student Kenny Buchanan sings "Don't Laugh at Me" with accompaniment from Haley Pierce as part of Tzouanakis Intermediate School's anti-bullying program kickoff. Looking on are fifth grader Marin Nally and staff members Dan TeGrotenhuis, Gina Ames, Brad Phillips, Trish Lowe, Eric Davis and Shana Faust. [Order this photo]
GREENCASTLE -- For years, the conventional wisdom about dealing with a bully was simple: stand up to him (or her).

In the digital age, though, bullying takes some much less obvious forms. It can be online. It can be through the use of mobile phones or other devices. It can be as simple as intentionally excluding someone in plain sight of the teacher or other authority figure.

Knowing the many forms bullying can take, the staff and students at Tzouanakis Intermediate School are taking a schoolwide approach to stopping bullying. Everyone is working together to know the signs of bullying and then to act on stopping it.

GHS students Sydney Terry and Walter Chiarella perform "Use Somebody" as part of TZ's anti-bullying program kickoff.
At a schoolwide convocation Monday afternoon, students learned the basics of the new program through a series of songs and skits.

Performers from the TZ staff and Greencastle High School used songs to introduce each of the program's four rules. GHS students Kenny Buchanan and Haley Pierce performed Mark Wills' "Don't Laugh at Me" to introduce rule No. 1: "We will not bully others." This was followed by eight members of the TZ staff singing and dancing to the "Friends" theme song "I'll Be There For You" to introduce No. 2: "We will try to help students who are bullied."

Next, "Taylor Swift" made a very special visit to TZ to sing her hit "The Outside" and help teach lesson No. 3: "We will try to include students who are left out."

Finally, GHS students Sydney Terry and Walter Chiarella performed Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" to introduce the final rule: "If we know that somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult at school and/or an adult at home."

In between the songs, an ongoing skit kept students entertained. Fifth grader Marin Nally played a teacher with a class full of pupils played by staff members Trish Lowe, Brad Phillips, Gina Ames, Shana Faust, Eric Davis and principal Dan TeGrotenhuis.

The kick-off is just a small part of the program. A committee that includes teachers Heather Cantonwine, Kathy Terry and Alyssa Papinchock, along with counselor Jan Evans and TeGrotenhuis has been planning the program for months. They have chosen to follow the Olweus Bullying program and train all teachers and staff members in the program.

"Absolutely every adult in our building will be on the same page," Evans said.

The Olweus program was developed by Dan Olweus 35 years ago in Norway. It has become one of the most utilized anti-bullying programs in American schools.

"It's one of the most successful programs," Evans said. "With this program, so much research has been done to show that it works."

One of the core principals behind the TZ program is the use of positive and negative consequences for following or not following the anti-bullying rules.

For example, not only will a student found violating the rules be punished at school, but will also have to call his or her parents to tell them what happened. Classroom teachers will then do a follow-up call with the parents.

On the other hand, students found following the rules will be awarded "TZ Rocks" tickets, a reward program already in place at the school.

The idea behind rewarding the children who report bullying activities is to make them more active bystanders. While relatively few students are either doing the bullying or being bullied, most are found to be either active or passive bystanders. An active bystander will do something about the situation and stand up for the victim. A passive bystander is someone who simply lets it happen.

The idea is to not have students who simply let it happen.

With the kickoff now over, teachers will continue to implement the program with their classes at their weekly classroom meetings, another program that began at the start of this school year.

"Right now, it's been more of a 'getting to know you' activity," Cantonwine said. "It's been very helpful and the kids have engaged it."

As the bullying program rollout continues, some sensitive issues will arise for certain students. By introducing it in a setting many of the children have already embraced, organizers hope it will be easier to get them to open up.

If comments from students are any indication, the kids are already feeling at home with the format.

"The reason I like the classroom meeting is because you get to be open about how you feel and learn how other feel about different topics," said Shelby Paxton, a fifth-grader in Miss Papinchock's class.

"I feel that I can say anything and tell someone," said Trent Inglert, a fourth-grader in Mrs. Terry's class. "I feel that I have an even bigger family; that's what I feel."

It's this feeling of family that program organizers are seeking. The more they can promote that everyone is in it together -- administration, faculty, staff, students and parents -- the less likely they are to see bullying situations.

"One of the things that excites me is that this is the first program that we've done at TZ that's across the board. Everyone is on board," Evans said.

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Good start to address a serious problem.

If only we could influence certain TV shows,

which thrive on putting someone down.

-- Posted by Foxridge on Wed, Jan 12, 2011, at 12:51 PM

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