will be participating in the Roots Program, a Princeton University program meant to curb bullying and harassment in schools. The program will be utilzed at the middle school level by evaluating the school's social climate.The Board of Education approved the use of this program at Thursday's reorganization meeting.
The program, supported by the New Jersey Department of Education, is a year-long research study that provides the middle school with an HIB (Harrassment, Intimidation, Bullying) strategy catered to the school environment, feedback on the effectiveness of the program, and suggestions for further HIB programs.
The Roots Program is a program designed to create grassroots, ant-bullying movements among students to reduce face-to-face and online harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
The program has no cost to the district.
Superintendent Margaret Hayes said the program could help identify problem areas and will allow Terrill Middle School to develop specific anti-bullying programs.
The program is now looking to middle schools to see how bullying originates and how to stop it before it becomes a problem. Specifically, the program aims to:
- Using student surveys to identify students (“roots” students) who are in influential positions in the school’s social network
- Train selected students to influence the HIB norms in their school. The training, which will be provided both face-to-face and online, will be specifically tailored to address the issues of each school
- The assignment of one program manager, under supervision from the Princeton University researchers, to each participating school to administer and provide support for the initiative
- Coordination with the school anti-bullying specialists, school safety teams and school principal to implement strategies for the prevention of HIB and for improving school climate, as required by the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act
- Training for continuation of the initiative.
The announcement of the program comes after the board accepted Hayes' report of 17 bullying incidents in the district.
A central goal of the program, according to the program organizers, is to improve school climate which will have a direct impact on student learning and achievement.
As a response to an increased bullying culture, the state mandates HIB programming, including a yearly report of bullying incidents in schools as well as anti-bullying seminars for students. The Roots program will fulfill the district's HIB programming for the year.
The board also made five resolutions for students in the district who had participated in the National PTA Reflections Art Program. Each of the honored students were given state awards for their pieces themed "Diversity Means..."
Hayes said that she is thrilled that program, which was on a 20-year hiatus in Scotch Plains-Fanwood, had such a big response from students, who had to create a piece of art - either dance, music, photography film, literature or art - within the theme.
"It's outstanding that there was such an interest in the arts, and that so many of our students were recognized on a state level," she said.
The following students were awarded for:
- Awards of Excellence (first place that is submitted to the national competition) - Jennifer Schug from Terrill Middle School for music composition
- Awards of Excellence (first place that is submitted to the national competition) - Carly Zogg from Terrill Middle School for film/video
- Awards of Merit (that will be brought on tour through New Jersey schools) - Morgan Dashiell from SPFHS for literature.
- Awards of Merit (that will be brought on tour through New Jersey schools) - Connor Spellman from Evergreen School for musical competition
- Awards of Merit (that will be brought on tour through New Jersey schools) - Camila Cabrera from School One for visual arts
John Zogg, whose daughter Carly was awarded for her video project, spearheaded the reinstatement of the program after he witnessed the amount of potential possessed by SPF student artists.
More than 500,000 entries from across the country participate in the art competition. Schug and Zogg will compete for national recognition for their projects.
"This is very personally rewarding," he said. "Not only did my daughter win, but we thought we would get a pile of drawings. Instead we got a significant representation in all categories."