Coon Rapids HS students learn to be empowered bystanders

The enthusiasm for their task was obvious as 100 students from two schools worked together to launch a new bully prevention effort last week.

Coon Rapids and Centennial students worked in small groups Oct. 25 with Brave New Workshop improv actors to brainstorm project names for the new bystander empowerment initiative to be developed in each high school and in the communities. “Obliviate the Hate” was the result.  Photo submitted

Coon Rapids and Centennial students worked in small groups Oct. 25 with Brave New Workshop improv actors to brainstorm project names for the new bystander empowerment initiative to be developed in each high school and in the communities. “Obliviate the Hate” was the result. Photo submitted

Applause and cheers punctuated each skit and idea presented by the Coon Rapids and Centennial high school students gathered at Glen Cary Lutheran Church in Ham Lake Oct. 25.

“This is not a day away from school, it’s a day to improve school,” said Deborah Tackmann, keynote speaker of the day-long retreat to launch the bully prevention effort through an empowered bystanders program.

Fifty students each from Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools began mapping out strategies to enlist other students, faculty, parents and community members to eliminate bullying by empowering bystanders.

After learning some bullying prevention skills and putting them into action, the students brainstormed names for their bully prevention effort, learned ways to market their effort to their peers via social media and other means and came up with plans to implement the program at their individual schools.

The bully prevention effort is an extension of the “Let’s Talk About It Anoka County” mental health awareness effort held last year throughout the county, according to Donna McDonald, Anoka County violence prevention coordinator.

McDonald said the students will be working on this bully prevention project throughout the school year, with students documenting their efforts through photo journalism.

The high school students participating in the project are primarily ninth- and 10th-graders who were selected by their school staff to represent the broader student populations.

The project is being led by staff from Anoka County Human Services and Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools.

Also supporting the project is Brave New Workshop, LifeTouch and Fallon Worldwide.

A grant from the Anoka County Children and Family Council is funding the bully prevention effort.

McDonald said that research shows positive influences can reduce the duration of a bullying episode in a majority of instances.

“Research shows the typical episode of bullying takes about 30 seconds,” McDonald said. “If a bystander takes action in a positive manner, the episode can be reduced to 10 seconds in 57 percent of instances. Through positive intervention by both adults and children, the bullying can be reduced and prevented.”

“We are very pleased to be working with Anoka County and Centennial schools in this grant project because we believe it will help us meet our goal of keeping all students safe,” said Jennifer Cherry, Title IX coordinator for the Anoka-Hennepin School District, in a press release.

Members of the public will be invited to join in the project at community summits scheduled for Feb. 11, 2013 at Coon Rapids High School and Feb. 25, 2013 at Centennial High School.

For more information about the effort, contact McDonald at 763-422-7047.

Kelly Johnson is at kelly.johnson@ecm-inc.com


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