Don't Bully the Bullies, School Learns

To make students feel safe, school tries to solve bullies' individual problems.

ByABC News
March 15, 2009, 3:37 PM

March 15, 2009— -- It's supposed to be a nurturing place, but for thousands of students, just going to school in the morning can be a terrorizing experience.

Ali Bybee was one of those students. The 14-year-old attended White Pine Middle School, a small school in Ely, Nev., with a huge bullying problem.

She said she was teased and physically abused to the point that she just couldn't take it anymore.

"It was tough," Bybee said. "It was just a bunch of being scared and not wanting to leave my house very morning. It was hard."

It got so bad that Bybee and other students fled to another school 40 miles away.

Bybee is not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every day 160,000 kids nationwide stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied.

Some kids are so desperate for anyone to listen, that they've made their own videos and posted them online as a cry for help.

White Pine's new principal, Aaron Hansen, said his school is no longer one of those places.

Fed up with the bullying, Hansen scoured the Internet for information and spoke with school officials across the state to come up with an innovative plan.

He started by conducting a "bully survey." Every student in the school was asked to write down the names of the bullies. Reading through the surveys, Hansen noticed the same eight names kept popping up.

Instead of outing the bullies, Hansen used the surveys to identify the problem kids and meet with them individually. During the meetings, he worked on solving their problems individually, which often stemmed from trouble at home.

He also got the bullies involved in extracurricular activities as a reward for good behavior.

"We knew it wasn't going to be effective to bully the bullies, so we used it as a teaching moment," Hansen said.

Hansen also set up student groups to intervene if they saw a problem. The group organized a role-playing game in which students can act out their problems, instead of acting out in school.

To ensure no student is left out, teachers assign seats at lunch, and instead of a school bell, songs play over the public address system to send kids off to class in a lighthearted mood.