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RMS takes a stand against bullying

Rosemount police officer Beth Richtsmeier talks with middle school students about the consequences of bullying.

Students and staff at Rosemount Middle School are taking steps this year to keep classrooms, hallways and buses free of bullying.

The school launched a new bully prevention program last Friday with assemblies for all students. Called Olweus, the new program goes beyond reminding students bullying is bad to enlisting students and staff from teachers to cafeteria workers to bus drivers to keep pressing the message. Students will participate in weekly class meetings to learn about the effects of bullying, what they can do about it and how they can keep it from happening. The idea is to give students the tools they need to intervene when they see bullying taking place.

There will also be meetings for parents to help them support the anti-bullying message students get in school.

"The person we're probably targeting the most is our bystanders, because we took a survey last year and we realized that I think it was about 90 percent of our students have said they would want to help," Rose said. "But then when we asked the following question, which was did they help, it was only 12 percent."

Rose said those numbers are in line with results nationwide. Students want to step in when they see bullying, but for whatever reason, they don't do it.

The survey found that seventh grade is the worst year for bullying at RMS and that 36 percent of students who had experienced bullying did not tell anyone about it.

Having those numbers helps RMS staff target their efforts. It will also allow the school to measure its progress when it gives the survey again in a year or two. Rose said so far all of the schools that have implemented the program have seen improvement.

In the past, Rose and counselor Don Hayes have given bullying presentations once or twice a year. And while Rose said many teachers already know the information presented this year, she believes it is good to have everybody sharing the same message.

The idea behind Olweus, which was already enacted on a trial basis at some other district schools, is to empower students to report bullying.

"They'll have the skills to take care of it themselves," Rose said. "The data have shown that it's great for building a positive climate."

Rose said in other schools where the Olweus curriculum has been implemented students start to like school better.