PTSA and schools confront bullying

  • Tue May 20th, 2008 7:16pm
  • News

tThe Orcas Island PTSA will sponsor an Anti-Bullying Assembly on May 28 in the High School Gym.

The presenter, James Warren, will be brought to the Islands by the San Juan PTA, which asked Lopez and Orcas if there would be interest in conducting their own assemblies with Warren. “This is a great opportunity to have access to a high quality performer and focused presenter,” said Barb Skotte, Orcas Island PTSA President.

The magician/performer will present two age-appropriate assemblies in the high school gym. The elementary-age assembly will be from 10:30-11:15 a.m., while the middle/high school assembly will be from 1:15 to 2 p.m.

The children from Salmonberry and Orcas Christian have also been invited to the PTSA-sponsored event with the generous assistance of the Orcas Island Education Foundation (OIEF).

Skotte said, “We sincerely hope that all island kids can attend, since it is such an important message for all of them. San Juan Island’s PTA and a Lopez Island consortium are also bringing the same assemblies to their islands the day before and day after, respectively; it’s wonderful to think of most county kids getting the same message at once.”

The PTSA developed and presented an Anti-Bullying Forum last Spring that was well attended, and believed by many to be long overdue as an open discussion in the community. A “Bullying Revisited” forum was recently held at a regular PTSA meeting, and presenters from Second Step, PIP and Life Skills, as well as the principals discussed the programs in place in the schools and how issues that come up are dealt with.

James Warren uses “Magic With A Message!” ( to convey a powerful anti-bullying message to students. We believe there is a tremendous need for the age-old messages of respect, caring and responsibility, and feel that based on the positive results this presenter has achieved over the past 15 years of delivery to schools, and the special and age-appropriate way in which he does this, that this would be an extremely valuable opportunity for Orcas Island children.

In his anti-bullying elementary assembly program, James Warren stresses the difference between direct bullying (such as threatening or hitting), and indirect bullying (such as spreading rumors), and lets students know that indirect bullying is just as serious. Students are also told that “telling” an adult about a bullying situation is not the same as “tattling” to get someone into trouble. He uses creative, engaging and fun techniques to capture the kids’ attention and to get the message across.

The middle school assembly program addresses ways for students to deal with bullies, and looks at the role of peer-pressure in bullying behaviors. Warren encourages students to be willing to stand up to the group, or at least walk away, and not be led into bullying behaviors by their friends, and gives them tools to recognize potential problems. The modification of the delivery of this message is no less engaging or entertaining and from all accounts manages to keep this sometimes hard-to-reach age group captivated.

Marian O’Brien, Orcas PTSA Secretary-Treasurer says, “As parents and educators, we have the highest goal of demonstrating and reinforcing positive social behaviors for Island kids. The desire for our children to learn to develop socially, as well as to cultivate support among their peers as they grow up together here on our Island is paramount. We want our youth to appreciate each other, and who they are in their uniqueness as well as in their group development. The natural outcome of this work will be their heightened awareness and their ability to face the challenges of life beyond Orcas.”

Second Step also addresses bullying

Second Step is a violence prevention program developed by the Seattle-based Committee for Children, which teaches kids empathy, impulse control, and anger management techniques. The program is coordinated by Orcas Elementary School counselor, Sandi Burt, and taught in the K-3 classrooms by parent volunteers, currently, Jeff Zbornik, Margie Sabine, Mimi Anderson, Lynsey Smith, Pat Lohman, Anne Garfield, Joe Gaydos, Julie Brunner, Claire Reutter, Anusha Solayea, Barb Skotte, Nancy O’Brien, Erika Harlow, Ed Wilson and Kathryn Thurman. The 4th-6th grade students are taught a similar, but more age-appropriate curriculum, Life Skills. Typically, each class has one lesson a week. The classes allow the kids to role-play various situations and to brainstorm ways to solve problems. Sandi recently organized a training session for parents, volunteers, teachers and staff so they can also become familiar with the skills the kids are learning.

For children who need additional social skills support, PIP (Primary Intervention Program), adminstered by Margie Sabine, is a partially funded grant program for K-3 students. The program focuses on early introduction and development of skills, which include resiliency, that promote academic and social success. The children are paired with individual mentors/confidantes for approximately 20 minutes a week where they can interact in a safe, non-threatening environment. This program serves about 30 students a year.

The Middle School will be viewing a video and participating in a curriculum called: ‘Let’s Get Real,’ that gives them a look at the problems of bullying from other students’ perspectives. It is a heart-felt way for the students to empathize with kids their own age, and to have a chance to step back and look at their own behavior. The viewing for this video and subsequent curriculum work has been planned for this Spring, with follow-up in the Fall.