SUSD looks to combat bullying with ‘upstanders’

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More than one out of every five students in the United States report being bullied at school, according to national statistics, but more than half of bullying situations can be stopped with peer intervention.

Those numbers reportedly spurred the Saugus Union School District to act, and during the SUSD board’s Tuesday night meeting, trustees heard from staff on how school sites are trying to decrease the number of victims by increasing the number of “upstanders.”

An upstander is a student who steps or acts on behalf of someone who is being attacked or bullied, according to district officials. The program is part of a number of efforts to reinforce positive behavior.

“This is our first year starting these programs,” said Jody Bolde, one of the counselors in the Saugus Union School District. “We have a 25% (decrease) by having the prevention programs in place.”

“Bullying” is defined by the district, according to the five SUSD counselors, as something different than “conflict.” District officials say whereas conflict involves a “disagreement” between two sides of equal power, “bullying” is done with the goal of harming or humiliating someone through having more power than the other, and it’s often repetitive.

“I know that we have used the term bullying, it is overused,” said Bolde. “It’s often misused by students, teachers and also parents. So we really want to make sure that everyone understands exactly what bullying is.”

Bullying can have a negative effect on students in terms of their emotional and educational well being, and can have long-term effects, the counselors said.

In order to combat these future repercussions, and take preventative measures, district officials say they’ve organized a slew of activities that encourage kindness among students. They’ve placed kindness posters and pledges around schools, had assemblies regarding anti-bullying and have done kindness T-shirt and bracelet giveaways.

Additionally, counselors have begun year-round anti-bullying efforts, by teaching both staff and students about inclusion and conflict resolution, as well as sending out informational links to parents.

The board members, after hearing the presentation during their meeting, expressed their support for the continued work on anti-bullying measures within the district.

“We were probably all bullied as kids and we’ve had kids of our own that were probably bullied at some point,” SUSD board member David Barlavi said to the counselors following their presentation. “But you know this all near and dear to all of our hearts, so thank you for all the hard work that you’re doing.”

The presentation was given in part to honor October as Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, which the board later passed a resolution in recognition of.

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