Violence, bullying: Howard teachers learn new ways to prevent both

Published 8:53 am Saturday, March 20, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The staff of Howard Elementary attended a teacher inservice centering on the prevention of school-based violence on Friday.
The school invited Dr. Marcia McEvoy, an expert in school violence prevention, to speak as part of a professional development program for the staff.
McEvoy is a licensed psychologist who has worked as a prevention specialist, university instructor, lecturer and has even co-authored a book entitled "Preventing Youth Suicide: A Handbook for Educators and Human Service Professionals."
She is currently working on co-authoring a book on the prevention of violence in schools, with an emphasis on bullying and harassment, which was also the main focus of Friday's lecture.
She told the staff that having consistent expectations of behavior and inevitable consequences are important elements for preventing violence.
McEvoy actively involved the staff by having them participate in role-playing exercises and small group discussions.
Howard Elementary principal Barb Garrard was very pleased with McEvoy's presentation and predicts it will have a positive impact on the staff.
In addition to focusing on the problem makers, the presentation also highlighted what can be done with the "targets" of the bullying and the "bystanders," who observe bullying behavior.
According to McEvoy, a key to preventing bullying is to support the targets and to activate the bystanders. She said it is important for teachers to encourage the children to promote good behavior and report inappropriate behavior.
McEvoy said one component of an effective violence prevention program is to develop a rubric-based approach to consequences. A consistent, predictable and escalating set of consequences can let students know bullying behavior is not acceptable.
According to the presentation, another important component of violence prevention is to have a "positive feeling tone" in schools.
This includes a set of expected behaviors for the classroom, hallway, playground, lunchroom and bathrooms.
Having a positive tone feeling also includes creating a healthy and inviting environment by treating students with respect and care.
Garrard said Howard Elementary currently has an effective discipline system in place, but said the school will do a little "tweaking" to that system after hearing McEvoy's presentation.