John Stark Regional program aims to stop the next generation of bullies
WEARE — Training children to combat bullying in their own school is the mission behind a program at John Stark Regional High School that sends students to work with the Anti-Defamation League.
A total of 45 John Stark students are participating in the 18-hour leadership training with a regional Anti-Defamation League facilitator. During the sessions, the students learn skills including leadership, critical thinking, and conflict management, said Patti Osgood, communications coordinator for SAU 24.
With the skills under their belts, the students are better prepared to serve as peer leaders to help fight against bullying in the building and on the Internet. They also learn how to respond safely to incidents of bullying, and gain knowledge on how to become allies for their peers who are targets of bullying, said Osgood.
“The overriding goal of the training program is to foster positive peer influence to promote a respectful school community,” said John Stark teacher and Anti-Defamation League Advisor Gabrielle Anderson.
The skills are also passed on to underclassmen by juniors and sophomores who have received the full training. The older students work with incoming freshman to educate them on the skills they’ve learned and to serve as mentors, said Osgood.
The students also reach out to students at the other schools in SAU 24, giving talks and hosting conversations about bullying and other efforts to avert destructive behavior.
“It’s a much stronger message when a student takes the initiative to speak to another student about why what they are saying or doing is unacceptable,” said Anderson. “A message from a peer carries a lot more weight.”
Osgood said the training program is rigorous, which she learned when her own daughter attended training last year. And Anderson said that giving students a chance to solve problems in their own school is an effective way to lead.
“The students have been empowered to see that they —the students, not just teachers — can have a positive impact on the climate of their school, and they are taking that task on more and more each day,” said Anderson. “It’s their school and they’re owning it.”
John Stark is the first public high school in the state to have the program in place. Raymond High School is also developing the program, said Phil Fogelman, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference Institute in Boston.