Print 30 kids trained to resist, confront bullies
Written by Greg Ruland   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 00:00

The energy generated by 30 students letting go of fear and taking back their power could be a problem for bullies at Cottonwood Middle School.

CMS students were energized Friday, Nov. 18, by a program that takes aim at bullying. Sponsored by Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, the Safe School Ambassadors program empowers leaders from diverse school cliques, equipping them with nonviolent intervention and communication skills to stop bullying among their peers, Superintendent Barbara U’Ren said.

Both students and administrators attended the training at Cottonwood Recreation Center on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 17 and 18.

Led by a group leader adept at bonding adolescents in common cause and focusing their attention on the problem of bullies at school, the socially influential students chosen to undergo training were taught to notice mistreatment of their peers and intervene to stop it.

The message was not lost on several students who said they personally experienced bullying, didn’t like it and wanted to take action to stop it.

“I was bullied a lot because I am pigeon-toed,” Nathan Hambrick, 12, said. “People need to know how bullies hurt us emotionally and physically.”

Bullying makes people angry and sometimes drives them to take revenge in unacceptable ways, Hambrick said.

“Safe School Ambassadors is all about showing people you shouldn’t be afraid to come to school because of bullying. We want to encourage people to stand up for themselves at our school,” Leticia Machado, 12, said.

Middle school students from the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District practice diversionary tactics for sticky scenarios in partner groups during an anti-bullying Safe Schools ambassadors program at the Cottonwood Recreation Center on Friday, Nov. 18. The two-day workshop was designed to help young teenagers learn to diffuse minor bullying situations themselves by being a positive role model.“I want to make people feel safe and comfortable around our school,” Victor Anaya, 12, said. “I want to make a difference in my school and be able to make a difference in my community,” Sierra Burnett, 13, said. “I want to be able to encourage our students so that they have a voice, too.”

After the training, COCSD counselor and program administrator Barbara Deher will follow up with the ambassadors at a meeting every couple of weeks.

The program, which costs roughly $4,000 for the two days of training, increases attendance and achievement, reduces disciplinary incidents and improves staff morale and retention, according to Safe School Ambassadors.

The program engages all stakeholder groups — students, staff, administrators, parents and broader community — which increases support for school initiatives.

It taps the power of students to educate their peers, to intervene when adults aren’t present and to establish positive social norms that guide student behavior.

Finally, it reduces incidents of bullying and other forms of mistreatment, and associated costs.