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Albert Lea schools move on from No Bully program

After a year with No Bully, Albert Lea Area Schools decided not to continue with the program but instead continue with social-emotional curriculum already present in the schools.

Last school year, the district received a grant to participate in No Bully, a nonprofit program co-sponsored by ESPN and Major League Baseball. According to Superintendent Mike Funk, the program was not as embedded into day-to-day work with students. At Southwest Middle School, Principal Chris Dibble said he didn’t feel the program’s language ever caught on and that students couldn’t definitively say what they had learned.

“We’re not sure how successful it was,” Dibble said.

This is the first year the middle school will utilize the Top 20 Training that has been in place at Albert Lea High School for approximately five years. He said Top 20 felt more preventative than No Bully, which felt more reactionary.

Top 20 is a curriculum that focuses on creating strong relationships between students and staff, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Dorman said. It is a social-emotional class that helps students learn how to work with others, how to communicate and how to respond after a setback, Albert Lea High School Assistant Principal Jeff Halverson said. It’s not a silver bullet or Band-Aid, he said, but it does designate formal classroom time to social-emotional learning.

Elementary schools use Responsive Classroom, which focuses on the connection between academic success and social-emotional learning, according to the Responsive Classroom website. Dorman said in October, social workers and classroom teachers are also doing lessons and having discussions about bullying.

This is also the first full year the school has implemented anonymous reporting, both through the district website and an app called Safe2SpeakUp. Since this school year began, eight anonymous reports have been filed in the district, Funk said. The reports are sent to the corresponding school’s principal. Dibble and Halverson both said the principal will investigate reports of bullying.

According to Dibble, Southwest Middle School students are notified of the option to report anonymously when they ask, or come in to report something. He said staff felt it was “more purposeful” to share that information with people who need it, but said next year the school intends to share that information with the school at the beginning of next year.

At the middle school level, though, he said students do not seem to care whether they are anonymous during reporting.

“If they sense a problem … they will come in and tell us about it,” Dibble said.

Halverson said there are a few posters throughout the building about anonymous reporting, and that the option was shared with students early in the year.

Funk said the programs and curriculums in isolation are not good enough, but that the district offers them in cooperation with each other.

“We hope by teaching different programs and working with kids in different ways, and (with) kids and families and our educators, that we can do better,” Funk said.

He also said bullying prevention is a conversation that needs to occur in the wider community, too.

“We need to be doing a lot bigger things with bullying just than what’s happening with the school,” Funk said.

 

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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