TPS exploring ways to stem early bullying behaviors

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Tecumseh Middle School students go outdoors following their lunch period. Approximately 60 staff members oversee 850 students. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Like school districts across the country, the Tecumseh school district has embraced various programs designed to educate students about the impact, both short and long-term, that bullying can have on others.

Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) Supt. Kelly Coffin said that the district has brought in speakers for assemblies at such events as the Good to Great Day at the high school, but also is taking action in other ways, including methods that empower students, such as the Link program at Tecumseh High School.

“With Link, every freshman has a mentor,” said Coffin. “Juniors and seniors each take on 10-12 freshmen and work with them throughout the year. Kids just want to fit in, and sometimes we forget the day-to-day things that bother them. Social acceptance is really big, so we’ve had some success with this type of program.”

Coffin said some newer strategies are being implemented at Tecumseh Middle School (TMS), or soon will be.

“Bullying doesn’t usually start as bullying,” said Coffin. “It starts as being mean, generally in middle school. We really need to educate kids on how being mean translates and becomes bullying over time and how that impacts others.”

The district hopes to soon implement a program similar to the Link group at the middle school level for one thing. Coffin said a top goal in the district’s strategic planning for the community group is how to empower kids to lead in their schools.

“Bullying doesn’t usually happen when adults are around, so it’s more of an approach for working with students, who might intervene with something like, ‘Knock it off; you’re being mean,’” Coffin said, giving them strategies to intervene before a situation escalates. She added that Encore teachers at the middle school are also incorporating mini-lessons into their teaching plans, which TMS Guidance Counselor Debbie Laney said are mini-reports that talk about differences between such behaviors and teasing and bullying.
“A lot of times I think the term bullying gets overused,” sa
id Laney. “We want to hear what the students have to say and really listen to what they are seeing, and be able to help them find ways to become comfortable with tools to help when they see mean behaviors, whether it’s reporting it to an adult or filling out a form.” A form that can be filled out anonymously is available on the TPS website.

TMS will be implementing a new 15-second intervention next week, said Laney. Each teacher will have a rubic on their ID lanyard that provides information for handling situations at different levels.

“It includes letting a student know that the teacher heard or saw something and they might tell them that it was mean or hurtful and that they would never allow someone to say that to them,” said Laney. “The teacher might add, ‘We don’t do that here. It needs to stop.’” She added that it is a quick intervention that will help teachers and other adults intervene at an early stage.

“We just want to do our parts because we care about kids and we want them to look forward to coming to school and don’t want anyone scared to go to school,” Laney said. Other strategies include educating students in bystander facts, and has already done this utilizing a group of 7th grade girls who call themselves “Bullying Butt-Kickers,” who formed as a result of a science project. “We’re having them help make posters, announcements and little facts and it’s great that they are 7th graders who will carry this into 8th grade.”

Nancy Snider, a TMS parent who recently wrote a letter to the editor regarding her dismissal from a position as noon supervisor, is glad to see the district working on bullying interventions, but said she does not believe the district goes far enough.

Snider described how she had been hired as a noon supervisor on March 20, and witnessed some 8th grade girls bullying each other in the lunch room, and learned that some girls had been pushed off their seat at lunch.

“I asked the principal to please separate them because it was a territorial thing and could lead to bullying,” she said. “I’ve seen this — the look on their faces when things get quiet when I go over.” Snider said this went on for a few days before spring break. When she was asked to come to Principal Rick Hilderley’s office the day school resumed, she expected his support.

“Instead, he fires me,” Snider said. “I’m still trying to understand what I did wrong that would lead to that.” She added that TPS has a Zero Tolerance policy and she just wants them to follow it. Snider said her daughter is a TMS student, but wasn’t there the day of the main incident. “They can say I was there because of my daughter, but I was protecting everybody,” she said.

Snider said she hopes now to possibly work with a nonprofit group to see if funds might be raised for cameras to be placed at the middle school, like the high school.

“I’m hoping maybe something good will come of this,” said Snider. “It takes all of us working together to get this taken care of.”

Coffin and Hilderley declined to share details of why Snider was let go, however Hilderley said he appreciated her observations and explained to her some of the things the school was working on.

“We talked about how we’re dealing with it,” he said. Hilderley also said the middle school has three cameras at the main entrances, installed under former superintendent Mike McAran’s direction, primarily for security of individuals coming and going. He agreed that installing more cameras was something that could be looked into.

“But the nice thing about the high school is its modern design,” he said. “Our school doesn’t have wide hallways and has nooks and crannies. Putting cameras down every corridor would be much more of an undertaking here. But at this point, it just hasn’t come up. We have a great staff and great kids. We have occasional incidents of kids being mean to each other. But we’re working with the staff and our kids. We have good kids and an alert, well-trained staff. We’re a middle school, and we will have some problems. We’re working to deal with them.”




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