BH May Join NJ Anti-Bullying Program
The program, run through Princeton University, will focus on anti-bullying initiatives at Columbia Middle School.
Columbia Middle School was asked to participate in the Roots Program, a Princeton University program meant to curb bullying and harassment in schools through evaulating the social climate and making groups to combat bullying at the middle-school level.
The program, supported by the New Jersey Department of Education, is a year-long research study that provides the middle school with an HIB strategy catered to the school environment, feedback on the effectiveness of the program and suggestions for further HIB programs.
The Roots Program is an innovative program designed to create grassroots
movements among students to reduce face-to-face and online harassment, intimidation, and bullying and to improve the learning climate in New Jersey middle schools.
Superintendent Judy Rattner said the program won't cost the district any money, could help identify problem areas and will allow Columbia Middle School to develop specific anti-bullying programs.
The program, which was presented to the Board of Education last week, will be voted on at the next Board of Education meeting.
The studies started last year as Princeton implemented strategies in high school across the Northeast, noting succesfully changed behavior in schools with bullying problems.
The program is now looking to middle schools to see how bullying originates and how to stop it before it becomes a problem. Specifically, the program aims to:
- The identification of students (“roots” students) who are in influential positions in the school’s social network, using student surveys
- The training of selected students to influence the HIB norms in their school. The training, which will be provided both face-to-face and online, will be specifically tailored to address the issues of each school
- The assignment of one program manager, under supervision from the Princeton University researchers, to each participating school to administer and provide support for the initiative
- Coordination with the school anti-bullying specialists, school safety teams and school principal to implement strategies for the prevention of HIB and for improving school climate, as required by the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act
- Program evaluation
- Training for continuation of the initiative.
Rattner clarified that she doesn't believe the Berkeley Heights School District has a large bullying problem, but the implementation of the Princeton Univeristy studies can help alter behavior to make it more welcoming and accepting of students who are different.
Part of the program will include a mentor, where the students who are deemed as leaders will create groups to include other students in an attempt to introduce students who normally wouldn't travel in the same social circles. The idea is to affect change from the top to make students who would be prone to bully more accepting and less likely to pick on other students, organizers said.
A central goal of the program, according to the program organizers, is to improve school climate that will have a direct impact on student learning and achievement.
As a response to an increased bullying culture, the state mandates HIB programming, including a yearly report of bullying incidents in schools as well as anti-bullying seminars for students. This program will fulfill the district's HIB programming for the year.