Building Community and Preventing Bullying
They came from Clarence Rush and Fillmore, Hapgood and La Honda, Los Berros and Miguelito. Chosen by fellow fourth to sixth-graders from the Lompoc, CA Unified School District, each of 42 students wore a light blue T-shirt that celebrated his or her accomplishment:
“STAND TALL HERO” on the front.
“Upstander” on the back.
The Stand Tall Heroes Conference discussed what more than 1,000 area students had learned from completing Stand Tall: Lessons That Teach Respect and Prevent Bullying. This innovative video-driven program, in use across the country, educates elementary school students and teachers about how to respond to bullying. In what has become an all-city effort, the conference drew sponsors from the school district, United Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Santa Barbara Foundation and Rotary International.
After an introduction by author/filmmaker Suzanne Peck, small-group discussions covered skills and actions to help participants support each other against bullying. The students brainstormed ideas about how to get more kids to be upstanders.
Teams of students wrote numerous keywords for overcoming bullying on large sheets of paper – from “Be Strong” to “Don’t Be Small, Stand Tall.” They then folded their sheets into giant peace cranes, as part of the “A Year Without War” program.
A sea of hands went up when Sid Haro, superintendent, educational services, asked if Stand Tall should continue next year. Superintendent Haro then went further, saying that the district would make a multi-year commitment to “Stand Tall.”
“We need to find a way to make it bigger,” he said.
Community Building: A Way to Make it Bigger
Contributed by Suzanne Peck
My opening question at this Stand Tall Hero Conference was, “Have you ever had a dream that showed specifically and exactly what you wished would happen?”
Hands shot up. After kids shared their examples, I told them that they were my dream come true.
When I created Stand Tall, my dream was for kids to learn how to deal with bullying and then transform their town to make their schools safer. That’s exactly what these Stand Tall heroes are doing through this community-wide initiative.
The Lompoc miracle started when the United Boys & Girls Club asked me to keynote their Annual Community Breakfast for 180 businessmen and women, principals and school district staff, faith-based leaders, Vandenberg Air Force Base officials and just about every VIP within driving distance. Talk about a great audience!
My message of empowering youth with new skills to prevent bullying caught fire. Response to the Stand Tall film and curriculum was powerful. Over the next four months, the school district and Boys & Girls Club created a community-wide initiative, including:
- Professional development for staff: a 2 ½-hour session trained 50 teachers and afterschool program leaders to use the Stand Tall curriculum to prevent bullying.
- Simultaneous school implementation: One-hour Stand Tall classroom sessions during the instructional day ran for three consecutive weeks, involving 4th-6th grade students in 6 schools.
- Data collection: a pre / post survey of more than 1,000 students began to measure Stand Tall’s impact.
- Parent Information Nights: families saw the Stand Tall films, discussed their role and received tip sheets in Spanish and English.
So what does it mean to Stand Tall? Here’s how the 42 Stand Tall Heroes responded to the group discussion questions.
1) What skills did we learn to help us Stand Tall when bullying happens?
- Use “I” messages.
- Speak up.
- Say “ouch.”
- Tell someone to stop, but in a nice way.
- Tell an adult, like a teacher or parent.
- Show respect.
- Stand up for friends and others.
2) What actions will we take to make a difference in our town?
- Lead by example.
- Put the word out.
- Form a Stand Tall Club at each of our schools.
- Be a role model.
- Be an upstander.
These are just some of the kids who will carry the anti-bullying, pro-respect torch. And with the support of their parents, teachers, afterschool program leaders and the entire community, they will make a difference in their town. The Lompoc example is especially powerful because of its surround-sound, community-wide focus on school safety.