“Many attackers (school shooters) felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack”. (The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks In the US, United States Secret Service and Department of Education, 2002).
While attack has occurred within the Santa Maria Valley, our neighbors to the south in Isla Vista have been through this tragedy. The potential harmful effects of bullying, as identified by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights can include lowered academic achievement/aspirations, absenteeism from school, and self-harm and suicidal thinking.
Using data from the California Healthy Kids Survey for the Santa Maria Valley as a snapshot of prevalence:
- 42% of students reported being pushed, shoved or hit
- 30% indicated they were the target of sexual jokes, comments or gestures
- 22% reported being in a physical fight
- 18% reported being a target of cyber bullying.
In order to reduce the scope of this harmful behavior, the Guadalupe Union School District proposed a multi-agency partnership to implement SAFE HAVENS / REFUGIOS SEGUROS. This project builds upon long-standing relationships with the Santa Maria-Bonita District, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, Conflict Solutions Center, Erika Felix, PhD. of UCSB’s Center for School Based Development, and other core resources from the Valley, to introduce a systems-approach to bullying prevention within two districts and the community.
Between the two districts, seven schools (two junior highs and five elementary schools) or 4,650 students will be exposed to the program. Dr. Felix, who is a member of the International Bullying Prevention Research Network, has identified two bullying prevention programs, Steps to Respect and Second Steps, as appropriate for elementary and junior high students. Dr. Felix and the Project Coordinator will conduct training for all school site personnel which will include site administration, classified and non-certified staff, community agency employees servicing school sites and parent volunteers. Conflict Solutions Center, a local agency, will introduce conflict management resolution and restorative justice practices to students and staff, with some students recruited to serve as peer “peace ambassadors”.
In order to serve the broader community, the project will be introduced through public service announcements, retail businesses will be recruited to serve as “safe havens” for students experiencing bullying, youth serving agencies will be asked to participate in a “youth action network” to promote tolerance, prizes will be offered to youth groups for project slogans, and members of the faith community will be encouraged to hold forums on bullying prevention and tolerance. A fund raising event in association with a winter holiday event is also in the planning stages to augment the resources awarded by the Foundation. Dr. Felix will assist with refining and analyzing data in support of the desired outcomes and Fighting Back will serve as the project’s administrative entity. Fighting Back will utilize a collaborative management team model to ensure completion of all proposed deliverables.
This project reflects an acknowledgement by the Santa Barbara Foundation that its proposed Pathways to Success must ensure that the social/emotional needs of students are addressed and students must have access to “safe havens” where they can be free to learn, succeed and socialize without fear of emotional or physical harm and distress.
SAFE Havens is Sponsored by The Santa Barbara Foundation.
Watch our student’s Anti- Bullying Public Service Announcements