Chris Dishman, home-school advisor for DPS, has been visiting each classroom at the school this year to discuss bullying, teaching students to identify bullying behaviors and encouraging students to eliminate them. His visits are part of the School Wide Positive Behavior program and include a reward system for positive behavior.
"Bullying has become accepted in our society," said Dishman. "People say that it's just a phase and it's something that kids will grow out of, but anytime you intentionally say or do things that hurts others, it's bullying."
During his classroom visits, Dishman focuses on the school's Stop, Walk and Talk program as a way to combat bullying. He explains to kids that making good decisions and eliminating bullying will lead to DPS being an even better school than it already is. The keys of the Stop, Walk and Talk include:
1. Ask the bully to STOP the behavior they are doing. Kids are taught to place their hand out and say the word 'stop'. Dishman stresses to kids that a teacher that sees this will come and protect them.
2. Walk away
3. Talk to a grown-up
Dishman teaches students that if they are in danger they should skip steps one and two and go straight to a grown-up. After talking to kids about bullying and what it looks like, Dishman distributes necklaces from SWPB. Kids have the opportunity to earn charms through the program, such as a little bull that says 'I don't bully' after they listen to Dishman's anti-bulling message.
"It's something fun that they will love and incentives like that really motivate this particular age group," said Dishman.
Dishman says one of the biggest challenges is educating children on what bullying is exactly versus what they have been taught by other adults in their life. Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and can include actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Teaching kids the differences at such a young age is a tough task but DPS is already seeing results. According to Dishman and DeBerry, the number of discipline referrals at DPS has seen a decrease over the last six years.
"Our bullying program plugs right in and teaches kids to be a good friend," said DPS Principal Linda DeBerry. "If we can start at 4 then maybe it will not be a problem at 16."
"Maybe years from now people will look at Dyersburg Primary School as the first place that really got it and can point to us as the place where bullying came to an end," added Dishman.