SCHOOL BEAT

Creating a safe, positive learning environment 

by CINDY KITZROW

Principal, Cannonsburg Elementary School
Director of Library and Media Services

October is designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. Communities nationwide are urged to take an active role to prevent bullying. It takes the entire school community to create an inviting school where everyone feels they belong and are safe. We all need to work together—administrators, teachers and school staff; parents and students can stop bullying. Promoting this environment of health and safety is a community-wide responsibility.

All students need to feel safe and secure in order to learn, and learning entails much more than academics. Prevention efforts must recognize the role of the peer group as well as the relationship between the person who bullies and the person who is bullied. Effective prevention programs promote positive and just practices, while also setting firm limits of unacceptable behavior.

Rockford Public Schools has created exemplary programs to reduce bullying and its detrimental effects on our students. These programs convey expectations of respectful behavior by crafting our district bullying policy and guidelines.

Capturing Kids Hearts is one of our bullying prevention programs. Staff and students have developed strategies that help to ensure each student’s positive experience in each of our schools. It is a process that helps the adults in a school work with the students so that together they create a school culture that is mutually respecting, caring and celebrating the dignity of all. The goal is for students to become self-disciplined, accept the responsibility for their actions, and devise ways to prevent the recurrence of negative behaviors. The adult works with the student, guiding the decision-making process. Our motto has become, “If you capture a child’s heart, you capture their mind.”

Ram Buddies is a program aimed at helping students with various needs form meaningful relationships with a “buddy.” The peers will initiate opportunities to provide support, encouragement and friendship. Throughout the year, the students who participate will join in a series of organized team-building activities and fun events that will provide them with strategies and opportunities to build relationships.

Our library media specialists integrate cyber safety and digital citizenship while teaching our students how to use the Internet for research. Sixth- through 12th-graders are taught about personal online safety, cyber predator identification, intellectual property and digital literacy, with a focus on online behavior, cyber bullying and social networking.

It is critical to create a digital code of ethics. Educators have an important role to play in teaching kids morals and desirable behaviors such as the importance of empathy and pausing to think about one’s actions before clicking and sending an e-mail or texting.

Our Board of Education and administrators believe that a safe and orderly environment is a necessity for students to learn and achieve high standards. In order to perform to their personal best, students must be able to work in a nurturing educational environment. Bullying is disruptive of the educational process and is not acceptable behavior in our district.

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