Local school only in area using nationally recognized bullying prevention program

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News 12 This Morning/Wednesday Oct. 30, 2013

AIKEN CO., S.C. (WRDW)--"I feel pretty safe now," said Emily Berry. "Everything is better and nobody is really bullying anymore."

Emily, a 5th grade student, says bullying problems at her school, Aiken Elementary, don't happen as often as they have before thanks to a bullying prevention program started there last year.

"I see a very big difference because in third grade it really did happen a lot," she said.

It's called the Olweus Bullying Prevention program, a research based program used across the country brought to Aiken Elementary by guidance counselors Cindy Hewitt and Keisha Uhle.

"The Olweus Bully Prevention program--it teaches us what bully behavior is," Hewitt explained.

"Currently, we are the only school in the district who's doing it and we have found to be a wonderful addition to what we do here at Aiken Elementary," said Uhle.

Uhle and Hewitt tell me the key to the program is weekly classroom meetings where teachers take half an hour of class time to talk about bully behavior.

"We will not bully others," chanted students in one classroom during their weekly meeting.

"They talk about what's happening in the classroom and in the school," said Uhle. "So, no longer is it just reading, writing and arithmetic--it's also relationships."

"I think students are more willing to speak up," said Hewitt. "They're more willing to come to the adult and tell the adult what they're seeing."

Emily says she agrees. She says since the meetings began, it's easier to talk about difficult situations.

"I feel pretty good talking about it with my teacher and everyone in my class because I know them and I'm not...talking to a stranger," Emily explained.

Now, Hewitt says she and Uhle only have one hope for the future of the program.

"We would love to see this program go district wide," she said. :For it to truly be effective, it needs to go beyond us."

Both tell me one reason other schools and/or districts may have a hard time taking on the program is due to large start up costs.

In addition to weekly meetings, Uhle and Hewitt tell me bullying problems are handled as soon as they're made aware of an issue. When a student makes a report of bullying, the teacher files a report right then and there.

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