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Bullying prevention kickoff

Staff writer

Marion Middle School faculty took its annual bullying prevention kickoff in a new direction this year — they made it not about bullying.

“A bullying prevention kickoff really emphasizes what not to do, and we’re thinking more what do we want our students to do?” MMS Principal Missy Stubenhofer said.

At what was called the Kickoff for a Successful School Year, students were tasked with completing a scavenger hunt of sorts.

The event coincided with a GPS unit taught by science teacher Kelsey Metro. They were to use GPS devices to locate five different businesses around Marion. Employees of those businesses would then explain the importance of a specific character trait as it pertains to their business.

“We want our students at MMS to realize the importance of no matter what their job or profession is, that there are certain character traits that are important to be successful in life,” counselor Kris Burkholder said.

Among the traits were self-discipline, dependability, honesty, and compassion.

Carol Riggs, owner of Sew What, talked to three groups of students Friday, explaining different traits to each group. She said seeing the traits firsthand would probably stick with them better than learning them in a classroom.

“Even if they don’t remember what was said, it will come back to them later on when they enter the work force,” she said. “They’ll remember that experience.”

Students were in groups of three or four as supervisors monitored the kids on foot or on bicycle. The temperature outdoors was higher than ideal, in the mid-90s, but students were able to get water from some of the establishments to stay hydrated.

Burkholder said the experience wasn’t necessarily part of MMS’s Olweus Bullying Prevention program, but could easily be linked to it throughout the school year.

“If we’re using those characteristics, then we’re not going to be bullying others,” Burkholder explained.

Burkholder is in her sixth year as K-8 counselor for USD 408, and said when she started, she saw a need for a bullying prevention program. After research by Burkholder and other faculty, the schools implemented the Olweus program in Jan. 2013.

Part of the program’s emphasis is to differentiate bullying behaviors from other behaviors that, while maybe not necessarily appropriate, are not related to bullying.

“A bullying behavior needs to be repeated, intent to harm somebody, and also usually involves somebody with more power,” Burkholder said. “Before, there’s been so much attention to bullying in our society that anytime something happens, we want to say it’s bullying but it might not be.”

Burkholder said the students have become familiar with bullying behaviors and how to handle situations where bullying is involved. That made it more important that students learn about positive behaviors — ones that are OK to repeat, done with intent to help, and disregard who the more powerful party is.

Stubenhofer lauded Burkholder’s efforts as counselor.

“She’s the first counselor I’ve worked with that’s pushed and thought ‘I need to lead kids,’” Stubenhofer said. “Instead of putting out fires, she’s preventing them.”

Last modified Sept. 4, 2014

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