October is Bullying Prevention Awareness month, a perfect time to reflect on policies and procedures, take inventory and make appropriate adjustments to ensure upholding a zero policy toward harassment and bullying in Vermont's schools. We at Killington Elementary School work very hard to create an environment that make bullying and harassment less likely to occur. Our approach is positive, pro-active and preventative. One of our parents recently shared some of the "great things we do right" at KES that contribute to a culture of inclusion, kindness and caring that help reduce incidents of bullying. Some of these great things include:
• Big Buddy/Little Buddy Program, where 6th grade students are paired with Kindergarten students for yearlong connection and relationship building.
• Peer Mentoring, where 6th grade students serve as role models and mentors for younger students during social times (lunch & recess).
• CU/KES Friendship Groups & Mentoring - a collaboration between KES and Castleton University, in its sixth successful year of operation, focusing on team building and inclusion.
• Morning Sing - the entire school community meet each morning in the library to salute the flag and share news and announcements, followed by a communal song to begin each day in a positive and cohesive manner.
• We are a PBiS school, where respect, responsibility and safety are the guiding principles that govern our daily lives. Discussion, role plays, videos, stories and song about respect, responsibility and safety occur regularly in the classroom, during Morning Sing and at school wide PBiS celebrations.
• Engaged staff and teachers know and care about all students - both in and out of one's own classroom. A collective model of inclusion that spills over to...
• Students who also strive to care about and include others, both in and out of their class.
• Guidance instruction brought to all grades, where social/emotional learning takes place year long.
• Bully Prevention is explicitly taught, across the grades, educating and empowering students to recognize and effectively respond to Bullying.
• School Counseling is available to all; our counselor works with individual students and small social skills groups.
• Professional development and training for teachers and staff on Responsive Classroom, Functional Behavioral Analysis, LifeSpan Crisis Intervention, creating Trauma informed systems, and more.
We recognize that bullying and harassment are forms of dangerous and disrespectful behavior, and is not to be permitted or tolerated at Killington Elementary School. In addition to the preventative measures listed above, we have developed, and work to enforce, a comprehension Bully Prevention policy, based on the VTDOE model prevention plan for addressing bullying in schools. A colorful child friendly version is readily available in the lobby of our school for students and parents alike.
As proud as we are with our achievements at keeping bullying and harassment at a minimum, we recognize that vigilance is key. Yearly trainings for staff, education for students and families and on-going improvement toward ever more effective prevention and intervention practices are the standards for excellence we strive for in achieving and maintaining a bully-free zone at Killington Elementary School.
— Mary Dolan, M.A., is the school counselor at Killington Elementary School in Killington.
The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.