My View: Fund school efforts to prevent bullying
As school superintendents, we see how bullying impacts every group in our school communities.
Students struggle to stay focused on learning while they fear their next bullying incident.
Parents share their worries and frustrations about what's happening to their children while at school and online.
Teachers and staff juggle lesson plans and educational requirements with safety and student needs.
Bullying is a real issue that has lasting impacts on students, their futures and the health of our communities. By adopting holistic, prevention-based programs and tools in our school districts, we've seen a decrease in bullying incidents in our schools. It's why we're strongly in favor of the Oregon state Legislature passing Senate Bill 180.
We're pleased to see the state Legislature has passed the Student Success Act, which provides much-needed funding to support student education and safety. However, we need Senate Bill 180 to pass as well, because it specifically provides schools funding for bullying-prevention programs that have known positive outcomes.
With the advancement of technology and social media, bullying has grown from being an incident in the hallway to a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week constant presence for students. An estimated 30% of middle school students have been bullied at school in the past 30 days, according to the 2017 Oregon Healthy Teens Survey.
We take seriously the responsibility of providing a safe, accessible place for all students to learn. But bullying prevention is something schools can't do alone. Working together, educators, families and students can help prevent or intervene in an act of bullying.
Senate Bill 180 proposes that the state designate $6 million for Oregon schools to partner with community-based organizations to provide bullying prevention programs to students, their families and educators. The bill would cost the equivalent of $45 per middle school student in Oregon.
The programs would include delivering skills-based information in small group and classroom settings about topics like bullying prevention, critical thinking, making healthy choices and conflict resolution.
Partnering organizations would be guided by trauma-informed best practices, and would provide valuable resources and referrals to students and families. The bill also calls for a statewide conference for educators on bullying prevention and youth empowerment.
Our school districts have benefited from programs like these through our partnership with Ophelia's Place, a prevention-based nonprofit that provides empowerment, education and support to youth through classroom presentations and empowerment groups.
Our districts found that students who participated in empowerment groups demonstrated better problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, an increase in positive interactions with other students, staff and family members, as well as greater resiliency in navigating the joys and challenges that developing pre-pubescent children face.
At the end of a pilot study of Ophelia's Place's Full School Partnership program, Springfield Public Schools reported that, of those students who participated, 92% said they were more confident in developing, engaging and in navigating healthy relationships with others, and 75% said they were more confident in handling internet safety and cyberbullying.
As mothers and superintendents, we are grateful for the support, empowerment and tools that Ophelia's Place has provided to young women in our communities, and the many ways in which they have supported the young men in our community to grow and develop into more respectful communicators, positive problem-solvers, and successful human beings.
Join us in supporting Senate Bill 180.
Kathleen Rodden-Nord is the superintendent of Junction City School District. Susan Rieke-Smith is the superintendent of Tigard-Tualatin School District and former superintendent of Springfield School District.
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