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It Takes a Community | Community Spirit

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It Takes a Community
It Takes a Community

From: http://www.ghaps.org
By: Keith Konarska, Superintendent, GHAPS

Without a doubt, I have never been more proud of our students and staff than I am regarding their stance on anti-bullying and harassment. We all know that bullying has been around forever, but how it is addressed and controlled can vary tremendously among school districts and communities. We also know that for something to truly change or improve it takes a very intentional focus on the part of many key players.

In recent years issues around bullying have gained national attention. When we were made aware of examples within our own school community, our staff and students took the lead.

With the support of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, our entire staff went through an extensive Capturing Kids' Hearts training, which requires students to actively develop their own expectations of how they will treat each other through the use of social contracts. These expectations, along with set guidelines for developing relationships through self-control, social skills, self-motivation, and optimism, coupled with genuine caring, are all key to developing safe and effective environments for learning. To date, the program has demonstrated very positive data trends including improved academic performance, better attendance, and fewer discipline referrals.

Grand Haven High School's Student Senate launched its "Don't be a Zebra" campaign this school year that encourages students to not be silent bystanders if they witness bullying or harassment. The campaign encourages students to take a stand by stepping in to stop the behavior, reporting the behavior to an adult, and intentionally stating that bullying or harassment of any type is wrong.

In addition, our district has been a part of the Michigan Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSi) for several years, which requires data-driven decision-making around behavior and reading initiatives. MiBLSi requires a very close look at what initiatives are working to drive program adjustments that benefit students by ensuring safe and supportive learning environments.

Our new "Safe Zones" initiative, with the support of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, has identified contact points in each building for students who feel harassed or discriminated against because of ethnicity or other differences. This, combined with additional training for Safe Zone contacts in the Restorative Circles process, will develop a broader understanding and resolution to reoccurring issues.

Finally, our Board of Education made bold policy changes several years ago that established clear expectations that bullying of any type will not be tolerated in our school system. This has provided the backbone to all of our current initiatives.

Together, each of these efforts create an intentional focus on maintaining safe and comfortable school environments that will potentially flow into our community in a way that encourages everyone to take a stand against harassment and bullying of any kind.