We imagine a world where everyone is supported and encouraged to follow their dreams and own their story.
At the end of a bullying prevention workshop, one visionary seventh grader declared Hart Middle School a “Bully Free Zone.” His dream may not be out of reach. Turning the Page and parent leaders have been hard at work this year making sure all Hart students have the tools to confront bullying. Our workshops kick started school wide discussions about how to use students’ stories and experiences to create a school climate that discusses and identifies bullying.
The clear need for a bullying prevention initiative emerged as Hart’s PTA polled the student body about school climate and culture. Over 70% of the surveys highlighted negative peer-to-peer interaction as cause for concern. The PTA mobilized, secured funding for the project, and turned to TTP to connect parents to the people and resources they need to prevent bullying. With the help of Suzanne Greenfield, D.C.’s Director of the Citywide Bullying Prevention Program and Shantae J. Edwards of The Future Project and I Am D.O.P.E. TTP developed a plan to engage parents, students, teachers, and administrators on the issue of bullying prevention. We set the framework for the discussion with a book we provided for every Hart student and teacher: Sharon Flake’s The Skin I’m In.
During a special Community Night, parents, school administrators, and students began to connect the story to Hart. Parents talked about how they support their students in the face of bullying’s psychological toll, and administrators clarified the policies and interventions Hart uses to make sure the school is safe for all students. Parents play a large role as advocates for their students in the face of bullying at school, and are able to spark conversations about the topic at home. Administrators took responsibility for fostering an environment safe for all students.
Next we turned our attention to Hart students and how they, too, can act to prevent bullying among their peers. Ms. Edwards and TTP staff met with all Hart students in small groups to discuss Flake’s story. Inspired by what they saw in the book, students revealed how they speak out against the insidious forms bullying takes in the novel. Students shared their pride in qualities that make them special and unique and they developed clear plans to implement school wide bullying prevention campaigns.
It was inspiring to see Hart parents, students, and teachers rally around the common cause of creating a supportive school climate this year. We are excited to work with the PTA in the coming school year in their efforts to building a better community at Hart.