The statistics are disturbing: nearly 20 percent of students in grades 9-12 surveyed nationwide reported being bullied within a 12-month period on school property, according to a 2017 Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey.
“I would say it is always a concern, whether major or not,” Messalonskee school counselor Kara Sprague said of bullying. “We can’t pretend it is never happening here.”
Messalonskee, though, is taking steps to address the issue, starting when the freshman class advisors established “Kindness Matters” as the motto of the class.
Next Wednesday, Oct. 10, Messalonskee launches an additional anti-bullying initiative, dedicating half the school day to four-part program geared toward educating freshmen about bullying and how best to respond and combat the problem.
The program is scheduled to take place on the same day that sophomores and juniors take the PSAT. As for seniors, the school has provided an opportunity to pursue off-campus enrichment activities, giving them the option to visit a college, job shadow, or engage in community service – students must bring in documented proof that they follow through with one of these options.
Seniors who elect to come to school are slated to learn about boat building as part of a career exploration trip to Sabre Yachts, which has facilities in Rockland and Raymond.
Meanwhile, freshmen will stay behind to participate in a program that focuses on informing them about the latest research-based information on bullying as well as strategies to deal with the issue. In addition, the program offers activities aimed at enhancing self-esteem and self-worth in engaging ways.
The initiative is the brainchild of Making Caring Common, an organization comprised of Harvard Graduate School of Education, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and training professionals from Career Training Concepts.
One of the projects of Making Caring Common is the anti-bullying program HEAR, an acronym that stands for Helping Everyone Achieve Respect – Staff Sgt. James Robbins of the Maine Army National Guard will present the HEAR information.
From the start of the school day until lunch, freshmen, organized into four like-size groups, will rotate to four activities all geared to addressing various aspects of the issues surrounding bullying, including opportunities to engage in improvisational scenarios concerning the issue and artistic outlets to promote greater self-awareness.
written by Colin Hickey