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Legislation raises bullying awareness

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By The Staff

Today’s bullying goes far beyond the traditional school yard brawls depicted in television shows and movies. Incorporating technology, and now focusing more on female relational aggression, bullying has taken a new face in our schools. The Kentucky legislature has recently taken steps to create an awareness of bullying; Gov. Steve Beshear recently signed into law House Bill 91, better known as the Golden Rule Act, or the Anti Bullying Bill. In Oldham County schools, the issue of bullying has been widely discussed among administrators and school counselors. Much of what this bill requires is already addressed in Oldham County board policies, but it is the hope of the Oldham County Board of Education that all of the district’s schools are taking a closer look at their stance on dealing with this troubling and sometimes deadly behavior.Two elementary schools in the Oldham County district, Goshen and Harmony, have successfully incorporated the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program into their curriculum to proactively attempt to abolish bullying. At Harmony, counselor Karri Hammons has created an interesting dynamic with the girls of the fifth grade to combat what she believes is the new trend in bullying, ‘mean girls.’“Female relational aggression really starts in kindergarten,” Hammons said. “With boys and bullying not much has changed over the years. The trend lies in female relational aggression and it’s more hurtful and damaging in girls.”Karri spends 10 lunch time sessions with break-out groups of fifth grade girls. They focus on a variety of topics that Hammons hopes will help them identify what bullying really is and how they can eliminate it.“The first session is spent getting inside their world. I want to know what’s going on in their lives and I give them a pre survey to see where they are,” Hammons said. Other sessions include information on the following: excluding vs. appreciating, gossip, hurtful teasing vs. caring words, bossy controlling behavior vs. empathy, friendship betrayal vs. honesty and loyalty, being caught in the middle, the true me-what they should want their reputations to be, friendship conflicts-problem solving, and fabulous friendships- incorporating their positive attributes into their friendships.“I want to empower these girls so that if they are guilty of this type of behavior, they know what to do to stop it. If they are a victim of bullying, I want them to know what they can do to handle it so it doesn’t escalate to the point that they hurt themselves because they don’t know what else to do,” she said. “I want them to know their strengths. They have got to know that they are not the problem and if things are happening to them, it is not their fault.”Though much of the emphasis is placed on girls, all classes focus on bullying prevention once a week at Harmony. “Hopefully we give them enough information to give them empathy and insights on the reasons kids are bullied so they can hopefully put a stop to that kind of behavior.” Hammons said that more people are involved in bullying than just the victims.“There are also the bystanders, who sit by and watch the bullying take place but do nothing to stop it,” she said. “We want the students at Harmony to know that they can stick up to bullies and to report that type of behavior. We want this to be a bully-free school.”All parents and students should be aware of this type of behavior and should immediately report any form of bullying to school administrators. To learn more about House Bill 91, visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/08RS/HB91.htm.

The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.