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Schools focus on bullies

New curriculum item addresses violence in Moffat County Schools

By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
It’s been more than a decade since the Moffat County School District last updated its guidance curriculum, and within that time, a lot has changed.
One major change is that schools are addressing the topics of violence and bullying when writing new policies.
A new item in the curriculum is an outline for counselors when addressing violence and bullying in Moffat County schools.
“Last time we did this, 11 years ago, it wasn’t even an issue,” said Kathy Bockelman, a counselor at Craig Middle School.
But now bullying is an issue, especially with the lingering memory of the 1999 shooting rampage at Columbine High School that resulted in the deaths of 15 students.
“The goal is to make it harder and harder for students to tease and bully,” said Tom Nagoda, Craig Intermediate School counselor. “We’re trying to make bullying not be the thing to do, and make kindness the thing to do.”
Bockelman said a recent survey conducted at the middle school confirmed that bullying is an issue that needs to be addressed.
The survey showed that 34.5 percent of students think bullying is a serious problem, while 55 percent say they would like more information on how to stand up for themselves.
Under the new curriculum, counselors are asked to provide information about bullying to teachers in kindergarten through fourth grade. The information is provided to help “bully-proof” the schools.
In fifth through eighth grade, counselors are asked to provide anti-bullying/anti-teasing lessons for classroom presentation.
The bullying issue being addressed in the guidance curriculum is in addition to an anti-bullying policy already in place in Moffat County Schools.
Moffat County schools had an anti-bullying policy in place before state lawmakers required Colorado school districts to have such a policy.
Gov. Bill Owens signed the bullying legislation last May.
“Bullying has been around forever, but what’s new is how we perceive it,” Bockelman said. “People used to say ‘kids will be kids.’ But now we realize it’s serious enough to make some kids think about suicide.”
Bockelman has worked as a counselor for more than 20 years, and she said she has seen an increase in school harassment and bullying.
She attributed this to violence in the media and a breakdown in families.
Several programs are already in place to make schools a more comfortable environment for students.
One is the FRIENDS program, in which individual students in the Middle School are asked to befriend new students in the school and help them feel at home in their new environment.
Students are encouraged to treat one another with more respect, but when they’re not, they need to let adults know.
“We want to emphasize that kids need to let us know when they’re being bullied, because we can’t help if we don’t know about it,” Bockelman said.
Bullying was a new issue hit upon in the new guidance curriculum, but not the only one. The services counselors are asked to provide was broken down into 10 areas. They were:
Counseling services
Transitional services
Academic monitoring/follow-up services
Consultation services
Coordination of people and resources/referral services
Assessment/appraisal services
Special needs services
Decision making and career development services
Course selection services
Teaching services
“As counselors we’re trying to help all students live a healthy life meaning they have high self-esteems, have confidence in what they do and take pride in what they do,” Nagoda said. “We try to leave them with the message to treat others like you want to be treated.”