Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bullying: ChoicePoint empowers bystanders

In a letter posted June 27 by the Ashland Daily Tidings, I emphasized the important role of bystanders and adults to combat bullying in schools. So I was gratified to learn about the ChoicePoint bullying prevention and bystander awareness program.

Cynthia Parkhill wears hat with “No Bully” promotional pin
My “No Bully” mug shot
Since 2008, Mediation Works, based in Medford, has presented the program in “dozens” of Southern Oregon schools.

“Studies show that most of the time bullying behavior takes place, there is no adult present. Our program focuses on empowering the ‘bystanders’ to become ‘allies’ and step up to help when aggressive behavior is taking place. At the end of the training students experience increased life skills and personal power as they learn that they have safe, effective methods for engaging in issues of bullying, aggression and cyberbullying.”

I consider myself fortunate to have survived school-wide shunning, name calling and physical abuse at Calistoga Elementary and Calistoga Junior/Senior High School in Calistoga, Calif. (I learned in adulthood that my experience had been a common one; a study published in January in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics found that children with autism experience high rates of bullying.)

I remember isolated moments of kindness, but the majority of my classmates reinforced a school-wide “norm” that I was to be ostracized. And I know from experience how rarely students are willing to intervene.

During a situation when someone other than me was the target of classmates’ bullying, I spoke against my classmates’ ridicule of a fellow outcast. My effort was not reciprocated and the subject of this bullying sided against me with the classmates who ostracized us both.

So programs like ChoicePoint are urgently necessary to empower the “caring majority;” I take the term from a book once loaned to me by an elementary school principal in the Konocti Unified School District, Lake County, Calif.

In Bully-proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach for Elementary Schools (Sopris West, 2000), authors Carla Garrity, Ph.D; Kathryn Jens, Ph.D; William Porter, Ph.D; Nancy Sager, M.A. and Cam Short-Camilli, L.C.S.W. address the 85 percent of students who are neither bullies nor victims. The job of the caring majority is to make sure that everyone feels included and to report any bullying attempts.

Mediation Works emphasizes that ChoicePoint is “an interactive workshop (not an assembly-style presentation) where students are given the opportunity to be heard and brainstorm strategies when faced with bullying and aggression.”

ChoicePoint adult facilitator training will take place Aug. 16; participants must have taken Mediation Works’ Fundamentals in Mediation or Conflict Resolution trainings. Exceptions must be pre-approved.

For more information or to register, call 541-770-2468 or register online at Mediation Works is offering teachers Professional Development Units to take part in facilitator training.

Social sharing credit: On its Facebook page, the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship shared a link to an article in the Ashland Daily Tidings about an event held in January to benefit the ChoicePoint program. Organized by The Hearth: Real Stories by Real Folks, the event featured six adults from the community sharing their experience with bullying. The Hearth related afterward it had a record-breaking attendance of more than 240 people.

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