By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Swanville will be kicking off an anti-bullying program at an all-school, all-community gathering at the school Monday, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
“It’s a perfect day to begin the Olweus Bully Prevention Program,” said Swanville High School Principal Sheryl Johnson. “It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a person who was an advocate for peace.”
The Olweus Program, developed by Dan Olweus of Norway, has proven to work in many schools before Swanville. Olweus material states it is an all-encompassing program which helps reach the entire community.
“It has been used in the United States for about 10 – 15 years,” said Johnson. “We know bullying happens. What we need to do is have everyone step up and say it’s not acceptable. Everyone means parents, businesses and churches, not just the school.”
Olweus defines bullying as “Aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves and imbalance of power. Most often, it is repeated over time.” Johnson said it’s an “intended, repetitive verbal or physical action against another.”
The Olweus program has been researched for 35 years and is known worldwide. It is designed for students from elementary school through middle school. Research has found it is also effective in high schools with some adaption.
The program’s goal is to make schools safer by improving peer relations.
Johnson said the entire school is on board with the Olweus program, as is the community whose members will step up and prevent bullying from happening if seen on the streets. She said there has been great response from parents, too.
Swanville added the Olweus Program to the school when incidents of bullying seemed to be rising.
“Cyber bullying makes the problem more underground,” said Johnson. “I cannot say if it’s better or worse than 10 years ago. But, just talking about it here at school seems to have lessened the number of reported incidents.”
For the most part, Swanville students are good, she said.
“Since they know bullying will not be tolerated any longer, maybe that’s enough,” she said.
A survey was taken by students before Olweus was introduced and Johnson said each grade showed a different percentage of those who felt they had been bullied.
“Most of the bullying was occurring in the middle grades,” she said. “Another survey will be taken in the spring or the fall to tell us results of the program.”
Johnson said she is excited about where the district is now and about where it will be at the end of school.
It took approximately $3,000 to bring the Olweus Program to Swanville and the money came mostly from Minnesota Safe Schools money. It paid for training and resource materials. It will also pay for after school discussion groups held several times a month.
Those with more questions about the program should call Johnson at (320) 547-5100.