Bullying, harassment and intimidation — often fueled by social media and apps — are ever-present concerns in Long Island schools. New York’s Dignity for All Students Act, implemented in schools statewide in July 2012, aimed for a zero-tolerance policy against such actions. Newsday asked local school superintendents to describe programs and approaches that are working best for their district’s students.
Kings Park Central School District
In Kings Park, we firmly believe that each child has the right to a globally competitive education in a learning environment that is free from bullying, harassment and intimidation. Apps and social media have certainly made this job more challenging. The anonymity and global audience that social media and certain apps provide have exacerbated the problem.
In Kings Park we have found three specific approaches to be helpful. First, we have focused on students actively creating a positive digital social media footprint. What is a college admissions counselor or future employer going to find if/when they “Google” your name? We have brought in both nationally known and local speakers to address this strategy.
Second, we have stressed the need for a family charging area in the home where all electronic devices “sleep” at night. A recent K-12 student survey indicated that 44 percent of our students charge their device(s) in their bedroom at night. While we still have some work to do in this area, we have noticed a drop in the number of reports of middle-of-the-night problematic activity. I remain convinced that nothing positive and educationally sound happens on a student mobile device at 2 a.m.
Lastly, despite our best efforts in preventing problematic/harmful behavior on apps and social media, we all know that some children make poor choices. We have found DASA “case conferences” to be particularly helpful. These conferences are akin to a CSE [Committee on Special Education] meeting, and they are aimed at producing an agreed-upon plan for the individual student that is designed to eliminate any continuing bullying, harassment and/or intimidation. Because this conference is focused on the health of the student, it is imperative that the student and parent(s) attend and actively participate in this meeting. Any residual negative activity would then require revisions to the plan.
Sachem Central School District
Sachem, like all other school districts, offers a wide variety of programs that target the many challenges a student may face, including discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying. Some of our programs were implemented prior to the Dignity for All Students Act, while others have come in the years following.
At the heart of any such program is the need to create a positive school culture, foster deeper connections with our students, and make certain that our students are engaged in classroom and school activities. At Sachem, programs and initiatives include Challenge Day, Unity Day, bullying awareness campaigns, Too Good for Drugs, Too Good for Violence, Second Step (push-ins by social worker), assemblies such as Power of One and the Leader in Me, student-to-student mentor programs, peer leadership courses, and lessons involving school support staff such as school administrators, counselors, social workers and psychologists.
The area that has seen the most drastic change over the past five years is cyberbullying. Our teachers and administrators continually speak with our students about this issue and integrate lessons into daily learning. Additionally, we host programs through the Suffolk County Police Department to address this topic, rely on the expertise of district psychologists and have begun to implement lessons on cyberbullying into our library media curriculum.
We are committed to our growth as a district in these areas and will continue to focus on creating a positive school culture for all of our students.
DANIEL E. GIORDANO
Lindenhurst Union Free School District
The Lindenhurst Union Free School District is committed to providing an educational and working environment that promotes respect, dignity and equality. In an effort to establish such an environment, district students are exposed to a myriad of programs aimed at providing them with information, tools and strategies for success.
At the elementary level, an emphasis is placed on strengthening character. National programs, such as the Bucket Filler program, among others, are used in the district to support this kind of social and emotional learning. We encourage students to be up-standers as opposed to bystanders. District students are taught that there are consequences to their actions at the most basic emotional level. Something as simple as joining someone on one of the district’s Buddy Benches could change someone’s day altogether.
These concepts are reinforced throughout the district at the secondary level through extracurricular clubs and activities and by using interactive anti-bullying presentations, such as “Ryan’s Story,” in which students recognize the power they have to impart change. The Board of Education has additionally set a goal to establish an anti-bullying task force to address any instances of bullying.
While the schools can play an integral role in helping students develop this level of awareness, it is an effort that requires tremendous community support. Fortunately, the Lindenhurst community acknowledges and assists in these efforts.
MARNIE HAZLETONRoosevelt Union Free School District
In the Roosevelt Union Free School District, we take all allegations of bullying in school and on social media very seriously. All five of our schools have implemented various forms of peer intervention and peer mediation strategies to combat this issue.
Particularly in the Roosevelt Middle School, the administrative team utilizes Student Culture Meetings to share the Dignity for All Students Act. This is where we begin setting the culture and tone for the building by discussing the rights for all students and a zero tolerance for any discrimination, harassment, bullying or intimidation. Highlights from the meetings are placed in our newsletters and parent informational documents. Through our Project S.A.V.E. group, we also coordinate a poster contest in our art classes where students draw or paint their best anti-bullying posters to win prizes and have their work displayed in the building.
To address cyberbullying, we have found that the inclusion of external community agencies to talk with students and to be present in the building has been helpful, i.e. high school students, school resource officers, Planned Parenthood, South Shore Child Guidance Center, NuHealth Family Health Center, Freeport-Roosevelt NAACP, Pride for Youth, Hofstra University and Nassau Community College.
Bellmore Union Free School Dis
Our greatest joy and greatest pain can come from our relationships with others. In Bellmore, we strongly believe that students need to develop both character and competence (academics) in order to grow into successful members of our global community. Therefore, we have a responsibility to provide students with the tools for positive relationship-building.
Our Bellmore Stars character development philosophy is at the heart of our efforts and is based on universal leadership principles and shared core values. We foster the social-emotional development of all children, acknowledging each student’s leadership potential and recognizing them as a Bellmore Star.
As part of our character development approach, we explicitly teach and model essential interdependent relationship skills. We teach students universal leadership principles, such as to listen first before responding in order to truly understand what the speaker is saying and to problem-solve solutions that work for everyone involved. We promote synergy, where students learn that working cooperatively together can lead to results which are greater than anyone can attain individually.
By building these critically important interpersonal leadership skills for both in-person and cyber relationships, children develop empathy and naturally treat each other with respect and kindness. From the time our students enter in prekindergarten, this proactive development of social-emotional skills is embedded throughout the curriculum and modeled by everyone in our community of learners. This has resulted in the creation of a positive, prosocial environment where everyone uses common leadership language and where students value and embrace the benefits of positive relationships.