Kids learn how to handle bullies
Kelsey Fauser, a fourth-grader at Kathryn Senor Elementary School, takes her position as a Safe School Ambassador seriously. “My job as a Safe School Ambassador is to make the school safe,” Fauser said. The Safe School Ambassadors program is a nationwide bully-proofing program. Kathryn Senor is the first elementary school in Garfield Re-2 and one of the first elementary schools in the nation to employ the program. The program exists at Rifle High School and both Re-2 middle schools.Kristen Greenstreet, Kathryn Senor counselor, said the program teaches kids to identify bullying and empowers them to do something about it.
“I used to just see stuff and I would leave it,” Fauser said. “I was like, that’s not my job. Now I’m looking for it.”Safe School Ambassadors attend a two-day training workshop where they learn to identify different types of bullying, including exclusion, put-downs or teasing and physical bullying. Kids also learn different ways to address situations, including balancing (countering a bully’s put-down with a put-up), supporting the target of the bullying, reasoning with the bully and getting help from another ambassador or a teacher.”I use reasoning a lot,” said fourth-grader Connor Strait. “There was this one kid being mean to a little first-grader, and I went over to him and said, ‘How would you feel?’ and asked him what he thought he should do. He said, ‘I guess I should apologize,’ and he did.” The Safe School Ambassadors at KSE are a group of 25 students drawn from a variety of different social groups.
“It’s like a mini-United Nations,” said Lindsay Hassett, national outreach coordinator for the program. “We created a model that would focus on the most socially influential kids in the school.”Hassett said the program aims to make schools safer and happier not by turning kids into “little police,” but by changing the school’s internal cultural norms.”It’s the opposite of a gang mentality,” said Bill Zambelli, Kathryn Senor principal. “We want people to say, ‘This is our school, and you don’t do that here.'”Greenstreet said the program is important because it teaches children to take ownership of their school, a lesson best learned at a young age.
“The kids are our eyes and ears,” Greenstreet said. “You don’t teach them in high school that it’s OK to report, you have to start earlier.”Fourth-grader Scott Hayden said being a Safe School Ambassador is not always easy. He goes up to bullies and says, “That is not cool; think about it.””Sometimes,” Hayden said, “they’re just like, ‘You’re not the boss of me.’ Then you go to the target. Just if you put your arm around them, they might feel better.”Fauser said she didn’t worry much about bullying before she joined Safe School Ambassadors.”But I feel a lot safer now,” Fauser said, “because Scott is my buddy and I know other Safe School Ambassadors are looking out for me.”
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