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MCS bullying prevention program earns national award

Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
News Blog Category - News Marion Community Schools is thrilled to announce that our bullying prevention program has been recognized by the School Safety Advocacy Council as a national exemplary program.

Several members of the MCS bullying prevention committee traveled recently to the National Conference on Bullying and Child Victimization, where they accepted the award and gained valuable information and ideas on how to continue to improve our the progressive, proactive program we already have in place.

We are proud of our team and our bullying prevention program! Out of about 40 nominees for this award, three winners were selected, and ours was the only school-based program recognized. The other honorees had a national scope. 

>> Marion Community Schools' Bullying Prevention Award is now featured on the U.S. Department of Justice's website! Click here to check it out.



The Marion Community Schools Board of School Trustees honored the MCS bullying prevention committee at their meeting on March 14, 2017, celebrating news of the national award.
 

Below is an overview of our program, from the award nomination.

National Conference on Bullying – National Exemplary Program Award nomination

December 2016

Marion Community Schools (Marion, Ind.)

Marion Community Schools’ bullying prevention program was started in 2012. Since that time, we feel that this intentional, multi-faceted program has made quite a difference in our schools and our community. We feel that the key has been a proactive effort to change the culture and climate in our schools. Yes, it’s a bullying prevention program, but in reality, it’s more of a kindness campaign.

Every single staffer is involved with bullying prevention at MCS, because we all have specific duties as detailed in our policies and rules. The core steering committee for this effort, though, includes nine members, representing all of our school buildings and stakeholders. This committee has included staff, parents, students, and other community members, including local law enforcement representatives.

From the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year, we saw a dramatic decrease in bullying incidents — an 83 percent decrease! In the 2015-16 school year, the number of incidents remained at that new low. We believe the education piece of the program has been the key to this decrease. All staff members receive policy training and guidance on how to identify bullying (and the specific criteria involved), as well as the legally required response to any bullying report (including a review of our reporting forms and procedures). In addition, students have had many opportunities to learn more about bullying and its effects on the targeted student as well as the student doing the bullying. These opportunities have included:
  • Rachel’s Challenge presentations at all grade levels, and use of the Rachel’s Challenge curriculum in our schools.
  • Social workers taking this kindness campaign into the classroom, using various positive reinforcements for behaviors that create and sustain an atmosphere of compassion.
  • Cyberbullying training facilitated by the Indiana State Police.
  • Student-led efforts including a Kindness Kids club at one of our elementary schools and a FOR TAXII (Friends of Rachel / Teens Against Extreme Inappropriate Interactions) club at our high school.
  • PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) was fully implemented across the district in the 2015-16 school year; we saw a 25 percent reduction in behavior referrals in that academic year, vs. the previous.
The data tracking is also key to sustaining positive change. We are able to see specific areas of concern, and then directly target our efforts to address them. In addition, we are able to see successes in a concrete way. This helps us decide how to utilize limited resources in the best way.

We offer several different ways for our families and community to contribute to this kindness campaign. One example is our Giant Hotline, an anonymous tipline for anyone who needs to share anything that threatens the safety of our students or schools. Though we do encourage people to reach out directly to their principal when possible, this hotline fills a need for those who want to remain anonymous. We also have provided parent presentations from the ISP (cyberbulling) and Rachel’s Challenge.

The annual MCS Kindness Rally, which is going into its fifth year in 2017, is perhaps the most visible community-wide event. The Kindness Rally is a way for us to celebrate everyday acts of kindness and the difference they can make. We invite the entire community to celebrate with us, with a carnival and Chain Reaction Ceremony. This ceremony includes a parade of students and staff carrying paper chains made up of thousands of links — each one representing an act of kindness done at one of our school buildings during the preceding school year. This is an amazing sight to behold, as you watch our students and staff proudly carry in chains that eventually stretch all the way around our high school arena — one of the biggest in the country. In addition, talented students present songs, poems, and other projects that celebrate kindness or speak out against bullying. We also have an annual T-shirt design competition for the Kindness Rally, where students submit designs and several are chosen to be printed and sold.

This event not only celebrates kindness in general but also puts specific students and staff members in the spotlight for their personal efforts at kindness, compassion, and inclusion. Nominations are submitted by students and staff, and a committee chooses one student and one staff member from each school building to present with the MCS Kindness Award, which we truly believe is one of the highest honors we can bestow, because we believe that simple acts of kindness have the power to change our classrooms, our schools, our community, and the world. 

These efforts have garnered local and regional media coverage, but also caught the interest of the Indiana Department of Education. In 2013, IDOE solicited applications from schools to be a part of crafting guidelines for schools to apply a new state law aimed at bullying prevention. MCS applied and was accepted to be part of that process. Members of the MCS bullying prevention steering committee were involved at the state level, helping to write guidance lessons and sample policy. MCS bullying report forms were used as an example of a best practice.

We see the differences this program is making every day. The data show that difference in a concrete way, but more importantly you can feel a difference in the culture and atmosphere in our buildings, and in the attitudes of staff and students who make an intentional choice to focus on the positive, and on ways that our choices can change our community.