Breaking the cycle of bullying |

Breaking the cycle of bullying

What: Steps to Respect bully prevention program volunteer training

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 12

Where: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office at 112 Nevada City Highway, Nevada City

Cost: Free

Information: Contact Linda Colllins at 265-9550 ext. 237 or email

“I had a friend. We were really good friends and one day when her mom passed away, she started calling people names and physically trying to hurt them. For the victim, it feels really sad and it makes you angry; and when you go and tell the teacher, all they made me do was go outside and talk about it.”

­— a Nevada County student who shared his experience about bullying.

As many as half of all children are bullied at some point of their school years, and at least 10 percent are bullied on a regular basis, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“I’m interested in bringing peace to the world on every level, and learning how to prevent bullying is a way to make peace.”
Shirley McDonald
Steps to Respect volunteer

The Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office, through a Safe Schools Healthy students grant, has been able to provide programs such as the Olweus Bully Prevention Program and Steps to Respect, which involves adult volunteers who visit schools, and along with teachers, demonstrate an anti-bullying curriculum.

Volunteers are sought for upcoming training, which takes place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 12, at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office at 112 Nevada City Highway, Nevada City.

The need for such programs can be demonstrated from an annual survey called The California Healthy Kids Survey, which asks questions about student behaviors, school climate and bullying.

According to the Healthy Kids Survey 2009-10 elementary school report in Nevada County, which included 463 fifth-grade respondents, 44 percent of students reported having been hit or pushed, 40 percent had mean rumors spread about them and 6 percent had been cyberbullied in the past year.

The number of countywide 2009-10 secondary school results included 639 seventh-grade participants, 788 ninth-grade participants and 719 11th-grade participants. Of that number, 49 percent of seventh-graders, 29 percent of ninth-graders and 21 percent of 11th-graders have been pushed, shoved, hit, etc. in the past year; 51 percent of seventh-graders, 39 percent of ninth-graders and 33 percent of 11th-graders had mean rumors or lies spread about them in the past year; and 15 percent of seventh-graders, 24 percent of ninth-graders and 20 percent of 11th-graders have been cyberbullied in the past year.

According to research, victims of bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, health complaints, eating disorders, school absenteeism, running away, alcohol and drug abuse, self-injury, accidental injuries, poor school performance and suicide behaviors.

Nevada Union Principal Mike Blake said that in most bullying cases, students are brought together to discuss and work out the problem, and discipline practices are implemented ranging from a warning or detention to suspension and expulsion.

“We find, generally, if we can get the parties together and talk about things, we can often solve things prior to that,” he said.

With the increased use of technology, cyberbullying has become an increasing phenomenon, with the indication that 6 percent of students in grades six through 12 have experienced cyberbullying, according to a 2008-09 School Crime Supplement by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Schools are also addressing this issue and encouraging students to report such incidents, Blake said.

The Safe Schools Healthy Students grant expires this year, but the continued implementation of most programs will be possible by using the curriculum that has already been purchased and established, said Marina Bernheimer, project director for Safe Schools, Healthy Students.

“They are largely going to need to be led by the school sites themselves to really take ownership and carry those programs,” she said. “We have spent four years providing support and curriculum with the intention of schools taking ownership of this grant, and most have.”

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program involves all students and adults on campus, from janitors and yard workers to teachers and principals. The program includes a survey, which is reviewed by a site committee for each school, Bernheimer said.

The goals of the program include reduction in existing bullying problems among students, prevention of the development of new bullying incidents and achievement of better peer relations at school, according to the Olweus website. “Everybody receives training and has a shared understanding of what bullying is and what the consequences are, to have consistent responses,” Bernheimer said. “There is another part with curriculum about empathy, compassion and making good choices.”

Steps to Respect involves a one-day training for all adult volunteers, who work with teachers and re-enact situations with students, foster discussion and engage students in various aspects of bullying, said Sharyn Turner, curriculum coordinator for Safe Schools Healthy Students.

The Steps to Respect program is a collaboration with Child Advocates of Nevada County, which helps market and enlist volunteers because of their experience with the various volunteer programs they administer, Turner said.

The program is administered locally in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in 11 local schools, once a week for 10 weeks, using curriculum developed through Committee for Children, a nonprofit that works globally to promote children’s social and academic success.

Volunteer Shirley McDonald has worked with Steps to Respect for three years and has enjoyed the connection with students and instilling peace through the program, she said.

“I’m interested in bringing peace to the world on every level, and learning how to prevent bullying is a way to make peace,” said McDonald, who has taught conflict resolution classes in the past.

She particularly enjoys the way the program is set up — that students who role play never play the bully, and the students do more than just sit and listen but are engaged in discussion and problem-solving.

“It’s very participatory. The kids get to learn role playing and a lot of decision-making,” she said. “Today we were talking about how to decide if it’s safe to stand up to a bully or just go and immediately report it to an adult. The bottom line was, we wanted them to realize that there’s not just one answer. What might be safe to one person isn’t safe for another person, so you have to listen to your intuition and always report it to an adult.”

Involvement in the program is “very satisfying,” McDonald said.

“You get to meet all these young people who are going to be the future in our community,” she said. “My grandkids don’t live in this community, and I hope someone volunteers through this program at their school.”

For information about Steps to Respect, contact Linda Collins at 265-9550 ext. 237 or email

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