Faced with the perennial issue of bullies, Chesterfield County Public Schools decided to take a hands-on approach.
Since 2004, seven of the county's 67 schools have adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, an internationally recognized doctrine that aims to reduce and prevent aggression among students.
This year, other elementary schools in the county began using a program developed by Chesterfield school counselors. "The anti-bullying program is available in every elementary school that has not adopted a program such as Olweus," explains Martha Mullen, the school system's instructional specialist for school counseling.
Rules, weekly meetings with all students, classroom lessons and training of staff and parents are all part of the Olweus initiative, and Robious Elementary's version, the Robious Way, focuses on compassion, integrity, perseverance and commitment to quality. The school's morning meetings sometimes feature discussions about bullying.
All of the county's middle and high schools are also focusing on anti-bullying techniques. For example, freshmen at Midlothian, Bird, Matoaca and Manchester high schools learn anti-bullying strategies as well as how to deal with issues such as peer pressure, anger and confrontation through the Success Program. At Robious and Elizabeth Davis middle schools, students learn about tolerance and breaking down cliques when they participate in Mix It Up lunches, where they meet students they don't normally sit with at lunch.
"These anti-bullying programs are a reflection of the school system's comprehensive and proactive approach to address bullying," explains spokesperson Shawn Smith.
Chesterfield is also helping to stamp out bullying on the Web, a growing form of aggression, by teaching about cyber bullying in every school. Online resources for students and parents are available at chesterfield.k12.va.us/internetsafety.
The school system's efforts are working. Bullying behavior in Chesterfield schools is on a downward trend, the administration says, from 621 reported incidents in the 2002-03 school year to 366 in the 2007-08 school year.