Lake Placid village backs school anti-bullying efforts

LAKE PLACID – The village board declared October Anti-Bullying Month after hearing from school officials about efforts the district is taking to stomp out bullying.

Lake Placid High School Principal Dana Wood said each school is doing targeted work in the area. At the elementary school, teachers and staff are focusing on the Positive Behavior Intervention System, a set of national standards implemented a few years ago.

“I think they’re finding it’s very strong at elementary levels,” Wood said. “Kids really buy into it. It’s a multi-faceted, multi-tiered program promoting positive behavior.”

Fifth-grade students are starting up a Kids Against Bullying Club, something they started talking about last year when they were in fourth grade.

Counselors will also teach classroom units about bullying, as part of the Dignity for All Students Act that took effect last year.

At the middle/high school, Wood said the PBIS system is still used but isn’t as prevalent, and there’s a DASA coordinator students can talk to if they see or experience bullying.

As part of sixth- through 10th-grade health classes, Mary Ellen Decker teaches bullying units as part of her curriculum, covering things like how to recognize it, how to speak out against it and whom to go to if students see it, Wood said.

“She does a very nice job of covering it over multiple years,” he said.

The district also plans to bring in a retired Saratoga Springs elementary school teacher, Rich Johns, who will give an anti-bullying assembly in October in honor of Anti-Bullying Month.

Later in October, the district plans to host a student group from Moriah called Common Ground that does role playing and skits to teach students about how to deal with bullying.

Also as part of Anti-Bullying Month, district officials are planning to hold a Mix It Up Day at lunch, where students will be encouraged to sit with people they wouldn’t normally spend time with at the lunch table. It’s an initiative that a number of schools across the country participate in, Wood said. The elementary school has set a date, and the middle/high school is still hoping to plan it, he said.

“We’ve got things ongoing, and we’re always looking at ways to get that message out,” Wood said.

School board President Mary Dietrich, who is also involved in the Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition, said the CYC is working on things like parenting classes and dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. The CYC is also looking to increase its presence at the elementary school, since research has shown that interventions with withdrawn kindergarten-aged children will likely reduce the likelihood that they will bully others when they reach middle or high school.

She said the CYC is trying to make sure that students are socially and mentally ready for college and real life, in addition to just having educational knowledge.

“We have to have those other components there,” Dietrich said.

Village Trustee Jason Leon, a teacher aide at the elementary school, said the integrated kindergarten-through-12th grade approach to dealing with bullying is fantastic.

Leon said it’s a personal topic for him because he was bullied when he was in school. He said schools have come a long way since then.

“It’s really changed the culture of it,” Leon said. “I’m just honored to be part of that.”

Mayor Craig Randall said he was glad to hear about all the steps the district is taking. He said much of the public that doesn’t have children in school might not be aware of it.

“It sounds like you have a pretty comprehensive initiative underway,” Randall said.

Randall said he wants the district to take the uncommon step of having the wording of the resolution published in local newspapers. He said he hopes the town board joins the village in passing the resolution, which other municipalities around the state are also considering.

Dietrich told board members that their passing a resolution sends a strong message to the community that it is committed to providing a healthy, safe environment for youth.

“I really commend you for taking this stand,” Dietrich told the board. “I think it’s really important that we’re all in this together.”