County boosts anti-bullying bystander program

Anoka County is continuing its anti-bullying empowering bystander program in local high schools.

Three county departments – community health and environmental services, community social services and mental health and community corrections – launched the program at Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools.

Now with a $50,000 grant from the Anoka County Children and Family Council, the county departments will partner with Blaine and Fridley high schools during the next school year.

The Anoka County Board May 28, on the recommendation of its Human Services Committee, approved entering into a contract with the children and family council accepting the grant.

According to Laurel Hoff, county community health and environmental services department director, the grant program will build on the partnerships of the Let’s Talk About It, Anoka County project in 2011, in which anti-bullying community meetings took place in various parts of the county, and the empowering bystander grant programs at Coon Rapids and Centennial high schools this school year.

“Both projects focused on recognizing signs when people need help, understanding the bystander role in assisting others and knowing the resources available within ourselves and in our communities,” Hoff wrote in a memo to the committee.

The new grant will build on that work, taking it to a new level of skills building for the bystander, she wrote.

The Bystanders Make The Difference program “incorporates the evidence-based training curriculum, the Green Dot project,” according to Hoff.

The Green Dot initiative , created by the University of Kentucky, has been used at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

It is a prevention program to empower bystanders to become active members in reducing power-based personal violence where they live, work and attend school.

This includes partner violence, sexual assault, stalking or other uses of force, threat, intimidation or harassment of an individual, according to the Anoka-Ramsey website.

Through the new $50,000 grant, the county will enter into a partnership with the two high schools to implement the four-day Green Dot training for 60 people from Blaine and Fridley high schools and selected community agencies in the fall of this year.

The county will also facilitate partner meetings throughout the year to report on activities, share lessons learned and develop strategies to promote the program to the communities, according to Hoff.

The goal is to “facilitate the development of people committed and comfortable in their skills to assume proactive and positive bystander roles to diffuse interpersonal violence,” Hoff wrote in her memo to the committee.

In addition, the project will develop trainers that will train other to implement the evidence-based Green Dot curriculum to staff, students, parents and at other schools, communities and organizations, she wrote.

This school year, 100 students selected students from Centennial and Coon Rapids high schools took part in a retreat in October 2012 to learn about the helpful and hurtful roles bystanders play in bullying.

At Coon Rapids, the students learned how to use their voices to encourage others to stand up and take action, naming their effort “Obliviate the Hate.”

In February, the students hosted an anti-bullying summit, which included free pizza, a resource fair and a presentation by Dr. David Walsh, psychologist, educator and author specializing in parenting, family life and the impact of media on children and teens.

Late that month, the CRHS students continued their “Obliviate the Hate” campaign with a week of activities.

The Anoka County Children and Family Council, established in 1994, focuses on prevention, coordination and streamlining services to better meet the needs of children and families.

Membership comprises representatives from Anoka County, the seven school districts that serve the county, Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP) and three appointed community agencies, plus parent representation.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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