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Building a Culture of Kindness, Inclusion and Respect: HCPSS’ Positive Approach to Preventing and Addressing Bullying

June 15th, 2022

The question is often asked, “how do we prevent bullying in schools?”

“Bullying is a complex issue,” says Lisa Davis, HCPSS’ director of Program Innovation and Student Well-Being. “You have to tackle it from many different angles.”

Critical to this process, Davis says, is building a positive school culture and climate.

“Beginning in pre-kindergarten, we teach students about the importance of being respectful of one another and of being part of a community. We help them to see the value of listening to each other. And we help them to begin to understand and appreciate different perspectives,” explains Davis.

These skills and values are reinforced and expanded upon as students get older through such programs as social-emotional learning, where they learn how to build self-awareness, develop and maintain healthy relationships, make thoughtful decisions, and manage their emotions in productive ways. Students also receive direct instruction and opportunities for application in other content areas, helping to grow these skills in different ways.

As Davis notes, “We strive to integrate this material into our daily practices and processes, and across disciplines, with the understanding that the skills and lessons we are teaching about should build on each other, day after day and year after year.”

HCPSS also continually works to foster nurturing, safe, and disciplined classroom environments using such systems as Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), a three-tiered system designed to promote student engagement, academic achievement and a supportive school climate through the use of positive reinforcement. Additionally, HCPSS uses restorative justice practices to promote the development of healthy relationships based on empathy between students and staff, and among adults in the school community.

Complementing this suite of lessons, systems and practices, HCPSS provides staff with professional learning on how to help foster a positive school culture and climate.

As HCPSS’ Executive Director of Community, Parent, and School Outreach James LeMon notes, “We give staff guidance and tools to promote equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging among their students. Our philosophy is that if we successfully build that culture of inclusion, understanding, and respect, where students feel empowered to communicate their feelings and equipped with strategies to safely and effectively mitigate peer conflict, they will be less inclined to turn to bullying.”

When bullying does occur, HCPSS has policies and systems in place to address it. Policy 1060 Bullying, Cyberbullying, Harassment, or Intimidation specifically establishes expectations for maintaining a safe and respectful school climate and workplace, where bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and intimidation are not tolerated. This policy also provides standards for identifying and preventing bullying, cyberbullying, harassing, or intimidating behavior. Additionally, the policy outlines measures to support students and employees who are either engaging in or are victims of bullying behavior.

The HCPSS Student Code of Conduct, by which all HCPSS students are expected to abide, also specifically addresses bullying.

The HCPSS Bullying Reporting Form – which can be completed online or on paper – allows students, staff and family members to easily and confidentially report incidents of bullying to their school administrators. Parents can also report bullying in person, by mail, or by email. NO matter how a report is made, a formal investigation into the allegations of bullying will be conducted. If the investigation reveals bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, and/or intimidation has occurred, appropriate steps are taken to try to preclude such action from occurring again. Even when a reported incident is not found to be bullying, supports for students may be put in place and/or corrective actions may still be taken.

“We recognize and understand the serious impact that bullying can have on our students and our community,” Davis says. “By combining a positive school culture with policies and systems to address problems when they arise, we strive to create a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment in which our students can grow and learn.”

For more information, visit HCPSS’ Stop Bullying website.

Note: Policy 6010 will undergo review during the 2022-23 school year. Parents and other community members will be welcome to participate in the review committee and provide feedback to strengthen the policy.