How Oakridge school beat bullying: 'Once kids have those skills, the problem stops'


    If left unchecked, the victims of bullying are at a higher risk for poor school attendance, anxiety, substance use and depression, the center says.In Oakridge, teachers and parents decided last year: Enough is enough. (SBG)

    OAKRIDGE, Ore. - Bullying in schools is a problem that's not going away.

    Statistics from the National Bullying Prevention Center show more than 1 out of every 5 American students were bullied at school last year.

    Of those, 64 percent never reported it.

    "It's very hurtful," Oakridge 6th-grader Aubrey Slaven said. "I feel like I just want to curl up in a ball and stay in my room."

    If left unchecked, the victims of bullying are at a higher risk for poor school attendance, anxiety, substance use and depression, the center says.

    In Oakridge, teachers and parents decided last year: Enough is enough.

    "That students were being bullied at school and we weren't seeing that, and we also needed an effective way to help support our students," said Tiffany O'Donnell, principal at Oakridge Elementary.

    Enter the harmonicas, one of the tools in the Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports program.

    The program works to teach good behaviors that will reduce the probability of bullying incidents.

    "They're going to put their hand up and they're going to say, 'Please stop, I don't like it when you do whatever you're doing'," O'Donnell said.

    "If something is still happening with the students, they learn to walk away and go tell an adult," said Tina Maher, a first grade teacher.

    Educators have also put creative lessons for good behavior together in a game called Pax.

    The results so far?

    O'Donnell said reports of bullying went from 5 in 2015-16 to zero last year.

    Incidents of harassment dropped from 10 to 6.

    And reports of fights dropped from 10 to zero.

    Students said they see a big difference in the halls and classrooms.

    "Not a lot of people are feeling down," said Maxwell Maher, a 5th-grade student. "They're feeling more energetic because they can do their work; they don't have to worry about a big bully."

    "When I walked away," Slaven recalled of a run-in with a bully, "they just turned around and looked pretty aggravated - but they left."

    "So my experience has been: once kids have those skills," O'Donnell said, "the problem stops."

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