By NATHAN KING
At Monday's Salina City Commission meeting, Cottonwood fifth grade students presented a proclamation request for bullying prevention.
They were accompanied by Vicki Price, education director for CAPS and Chris Field, a Cottonwood building substitute teacher.
The proclamation recognized October as Bullying Prevention Month and encouraged local schools, students, parents, recreational programs, religious institutions and community organizations to engage in awareness and prevention activities designed to make the community safer for all children and adolescents.
"The technical term for bullying is peer-to-peer child abuse because it comes from somebody your age, a peer," Price said. "Research tells us that bullying can best be stopped in the first 10 seconds. After it happens, there's this little window, where a bully will always look around at all the witnesses - they always watch their audience."
Providing education to counter bullying
CAPS - Child Advocacy and Parenting Services - is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to improve children’s lives and strengthen families through education, advocacy and support. A large part of that is educating families and connecting them with local resources.
The conversation regarding bullying prevention is not a new concept. Bullies Targets and Witnesses, a nationally acclaimed book written by Salinans SuEllen Fried and her daughter, Paula, provided an in-depth look at how young people become bullies, and how educators and community advocates can stop the cycle of peer abuse.
"The bullying crisis was bigger than we thought. It wasn't just something that kids have to go through, it had taken on a new kind of life of its own, and we needed to address it," said Price. "We were beginning to see kids committing suicide, like young kids 11 or 12 years old, saying that the reason they were doing these things was because of the bullying."
In 1996, CAPS invited Paula and SueEllen to hold an in-service with educators within Salina USD 305 to share their research.
"Like a lot of good in-services that happen with teachers or with anybody in any profession, teachers said, 'Oh, this is great, This is wonderful!' Now, so what," Price said. "Somebody said, 'Well, somebody needs to do something,' So I just raised my hand and I said, 'Yeah, I'll be glad to.'"
Fried and Price embarked on plan to create a curriculum for schools to use that focused on the witnesses to bullying. Price began visiting classrooms throughout Salina USD 305, sharing her resources and visiting with students about how they have the power to stop bullying in their classrooms.
"I think the strength of this curriculum that we created, is that it focuses on the power that witnesses have. Because some curriculum that I've seen, focuses on victims. You need to empower the victim and we teach them like, if you're going to ignore the bully, you have to use your two Cs, your chest and your chin, they have to be up, we give victims some skills," Price said. "But the way that bullying really will end is by getting those witnesses to use the power that is just built in the way bullying is."
In one year alone, Price visits more than 400 third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms throughout north-central Kansas. Her curriculum provides bullying prevention exercises and reenactments in the classroom setting for elementary and middle school students. Conflict resolution and empathy-building exercises facilitated by CAPs help strengthen students who are either targets or witnesses of bullying.
"That's why our curriculum is so powerful because kids can end bullying," Price said. "I mean, they could end bullying at their school today, if everybody used their power as a witness."