Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2019

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Middle school students take on bullying

Andre and Ted

Courtesy

Change the GAME is this year’s anti-bullying theme at Brinley Middle School.

The gymnasium walls trembled when hundreds of middle school students stomped their feet and chanted, “G-A-M-E, Change the Game.” Cheerleaders from UNLV and Brinley Middle School egged them on. They were rooting against bullying, not some rival school playing basketball on their home turf.

TO REPORT BULLYING

• Call the Bully Prevention Hotline at 1-775-689-0150

• Visit ccsd.net/students/bully, which also includes a list of national and state-based programs, including the Nevada Department of Education’s Bully Free Zone at bullyfreezone.nv.gov or Nevada PEP’s at nvpep.org/bullying.html

• Parents and educators can find lesson plans and videos to aid in prevention of bullying at vegaspbs.org/bullying

More than 1 out of every 5 students in the U.S. reported being bullied in 2016, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. The most recent data for Nevada is from the 2013-14 school year, in which the state documented 3,754 reports of incidents, Clark County accounting for 2,286 of them.

Flip the Script, a project of the employee-driven R&R Partners Foundation, empowers Clark County School District students to create and drive anti-bullying campaigns specific to their campus communities. School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by as much as 25 percent, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service study by Gail McCallion and Jody Feder.

Since the start of this school year, students at Findlay, Swainston and Brinley middle schools worked with teams of volunteer mentors to design their custom anti-bullying campaigns. The students were selected by teachers and staff for their positive outlooks and relationships with peers. Studies show that junior high is when bullying peaks and when intervention has the most impact, said Jennifer López, a senior public relations executive at R&R Partners (the Las Vegas ad agency oversees the foundation).

“I am personally committed to this project,” said López, who volunteered to be a team leader at Findlay Middle School. “I was bullied as a child myself and wish something like this would have existed.”

Students at Brinley Middle School went with a theme of “Change the GAME.” They presented the campaign to the student body, complete with an inspirational rallying cry suggesting that anyone has the power to stop bullying. The slogan is an acronym for Grow, Act, Manage and Express — four methods identified by students that may help address specific problems at Brinley, like engaging in hostile behavior or posting altercations on social media. The goal is to encourage students to find productive ways to express their frustrations.

“We knew we wouldn’t be able to change it by someone else coming in,” Brinley teacher Kyle Yasso said to the crowd. “We decided to change it from the inside.”

Central to the campaign was a desire to help students grow personally, act on behalf of the bullied, manage their feelings and reactions to verbal altercations, and express their feelings positively. A study promoted by pacer.org’s National Bullying Prevention Center shows that intervening stops bullying in 57 percent of all cases, and at Brinley, the crowd embraced that messaging.

“For anti-bullying to work, there has to be buy-in by the students and the schools,” said Jim King, chairman of the R&R Partners Foundation.

To motivate and reward students for their commitment to the campaign, Brinley administrators wiped their discipline records clean right after they filed out of the bleachers and into the classrooms, Yasso said.

In 2016, R&R employees worked more than 4,000 hours pro bono through the foundation, mentoring 25 student ambassadors in the production of three campaigns that affected more than 3,000 CCSD middle school students (the Public Education Foundation does the performance tracking). Whichever campaign is judged by R&R to be the most effective based on industry guidelines wins $1,500, split among the members. Last year’s winners donated their prize to the school they helped.

The annual initiative began in 2011 and resulted in Nevada Senate Bill 276, strong anti-bullying legislation that created the Bullying Prevention Fund and various accountability measures at the state level, required principals of public schools to appoint anti-bullying specialists and safety teams, and tasked the Department of Education with drafting new outreach materials to help students, parents and legal guardians resolve incidents across the full spectrum of bullying behavior.

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