Kentucky has anti-bullying and harassment laws, and schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination.
Bullying is defined by Kentucky law as “any unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated.” It “occurs on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation or at a school-sponsored event that occurs on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event; or that disrupts the education process.”
Hoping to provide students with a different call to action against bullying, Wendell Foster launched its original “Respect Starts Now!” campaign last spring, where over 50 presentations were given to over 3,800 students. The campaign placed focus on not judging those with disabilities, eliminating the use of the “r”-word, and providing tips on how to handle bullying.
After speaking with several teachers and school personnel, Wendell Foster moved the campaign to the fall season to better accommodate schedules.
Wendell Foster begins their presentation on Oct. 1 to classrooms of all ages and has already scheduled 50 presentations through Nov. 30. The presentation’s goal is to shatter stereotypes of people with disabilities through a discussion led by John Gleason, Wendell Foster’s Community Outreach Specialist and Lesley Blake, who shares her personal experience with cerebral palsy and the importance of showing respect to all.
“We have already scheduled for John and Lesley to pay Sutton a visit at the end of October to update us on their progress in their campaign,” Tines said. “We can’t wait to see what we can do to join them in their efforts this school year! “
There are several contests that Wendell Foster runs during this campaign:
BULLETIN BOARD CONTEST: Special education teachers and their students design a “Respect Starts Now!” school bulletin board advocating the message to show respect to all. Prizes will be awarded to the best elementary, middle, and high school.
1st Place: $100 for a celebration lunch/party. 2nd Place: $50 for a celebration lunch/party.
ESSAY CONTEST: Students in grades 6 through 12 are invited to write an essay with a theme reflecting the respect campaign. There will be two grade groups: 6-8 and 9-12.
1st Place: $50 Visa gift card, “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt, and published work in the Owensboro Times and Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. 2nd Place: $25 restaurant gift card and “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt. 3rd Place: $15 restaurant gift card and “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt.
POSTER CONTEST: Students from K to 8th grade are invited to design a poster with the respect campaign theme. There will be three grade groups: Kindergarten -2, 3-5 and 6-8.
1st Place: $50 Visa gift card, “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt and published work in the Owensboro Times and Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. 2nd Place: $25 restaurant gift card and “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt. 3rd Place: $15 restaurant gift card and “Respect Starts Now!” t-shirt.
DIFFERENT ABILITIES POSTER AND ESSAY CONTEST: specific guidelines are available for poster and essay.
Sutton was one of the schools involved in the “Respect Starts Now” campaign. A small leadership group within the school created a prize-winning bulletin board that showcased Sutton’s support of the campaign. Over 100 students entered the poster contest and several won. Kristin Tines, Sutton Elementary School’s guidance counselor says Sutton’s goal is to have a proactive approach to bullying.
“Our school counseling program includes two units, K-5, throughout the year that focus solely on the concept of bullying,” Tines said. “We teach students how to tell the difference between bully behavior and a friend having a bad day. They [students] learn what bully behaviors look like and how to best handle different situations through a variety of role play and lesson activities.”
College View Middle School guidance counselor Kristie Miller says that at the beginning of the school year, counselors meet with the 6th graders in the classroom to discuss what types of behaviors are considered rude, mean or bullying. Then they role play this to distinguish what type of behavior may have occurred. The terminology and definitions of these behaviors align with the Kentucky Department of Education’s laws on bullying.
In addition, students repeat the CVMS Viking code every day after the Pledge of Allegiance.
“As a Viking, I will be Courteous and considerate to all at all times, a Vigilant learner, a Mature and responsible individual, and a Safe CVMS citizen. Because excellence is not a skill, it’s a choice.”
The CVMS guidance department sees a couple of students each week about bullying.
“The common types of middle school bullying are name calling, teasing, rumors, exclusion, threats, and harassment,” Miller said. “Often friends will report that their friend is being bullied.”
The guidance counselors then have students complete a bullying report and if there were witnesses to the incident, they, too, fill out a witness statement form. This helps the counselors and administrators gather as much information as possible.
CVMS students can also report bullying anonymously through Daviess County Public Schools’ safety tip line.
Miller said that social media has “definitely” changed how students harass other students and that apps like Snapchat, where older kids are texting, make it difficult to keep the “evidence” of what has been sent because it disappears so quickly. Parents are unable to monitor these messages unless they have been saved to the user’s “story.”
“The types of behaviors we may have associated with bullying previously used to happen during school hours only,” Miller said. “With the freedom of being anonymous and such easy access on phones and social media, it is difficult to escape. Students can be bullied 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Students message other students things they would never say to their face.”