- Montgomery County is the second Kentucky school district to adopt the Olweus program in each of its schools.
- The Kentucky Department of Education offers training and materials that allow schools to implement the program at minimal cost.
By Mike Marsee
The Montgomery County schools are putting a priority on bullying prevention without putting a burden on their teachers.
Montgomery County is implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in all of its schools, adding to the growing roster of schools that are using the program with support from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
Schools in the district have had their own anti-bullying and character education initiatives in the past, but Superintendent Matt Thompson said this allows the district to consolidate its efforts.
“We decided to make it a district focus,” Thompson said. “I think most of our staff will see this as a continuation of what they’re already doing, just with a little extra support and materials.”
Olweus is a comprehensive approach that includes schoolwide, classroom, individual and community components. The program, which can be used in grades K-12, incorporates best practices in bullying prevention and intervention that are grounded in research.
It is supported by KDE, which has offered training and materials to schools that wish to implement the program since 2015.
Montgomery County is only the second Kentucky school district to adopt the Olweus program in each of its schools, joining Edmonson County, which implemented it in 2018 and is continuing it this year.
“It’s a big undertaking to implement it in all the schools at one time,” said Sherri Clusky, a program consultant in KDE’s Division of Student Success who trains school staff members in Olweus.
Willie Carver, an English and French teacher at Montgomery County High School, said bullying prevention is a priority for teachers across the district.
“I have a lot of students who just come to me and talk to me about issues they’re facing at the school,” Carver said. “I know virtually every person in this district cares a lot about the issue, and I’m excited that there’s a comprehensive front so that everyone can see that and we can all be on the same page.”
Carver was part of a team of faculty members from his school that joined teams from each of the other six schools in Montgomery County that were assembled by school counselors for the districtwide training. They took what they learned back to their respective staffs to launch the program in each school.
Clusky said she and other Olweus trainers recommend a timeline for implementing the program that starts with training a bullying prevention coordinating committee that in turn trains the staff at the school, then continues with having students in grades 3-12 complete a questionnaire that assesses the nature and extent of bullying problems in a school. That is followed by a kickoff event that can involve the entire community and class meetings that include regular discussions about bullying.
“We try to make sure that anybody that’s going to implement Olweus does so with fidelity because there’s so much research around it,” she said. “And it’s important that the community buys in, I think. We all know that a lot of bullying takes place after school, but it spills over into our schools.”
Thompson and Lacy Gross, a school counselor at Mapleton Elementary School, serve on the board of an educational foundation that they said was looking to support an anti-bullying program for Montgomery County schools. Gross said KDE’s support of Olweus will allow the foundation to use the money it was going to provide for such a program to support a countywide kickoff event.
“I’m super excited that we have this opportunity,” Gross said. “Hopefully we can be a model or an example for other districts, because I definitely think this is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Gross said addressing bullying through Olweus has tremendous advantages.
“This provides us all with the same language and it’s streamlined so students are going to hear the same terms used in elementary and continuing through high school,” she said. “I love that there is the survey component and I like that it can be implemented with very little planning. We’re not adding something to an already busy teacher’s life. We’ll have trainings in our school, and we’ll build on that in our faculty meetings once a week throughout the year.”
Thompson said the implementation of Olweus also will serve as the launch of a districtwide focus on Positive Behavior in Schools (PBIS).
“We know that the tools that we’ll get here will help our kids, our parents and our entire school district,” he said. “At the same time, we’re putting together parts of a district committee for PBIS and we’ll be able to use some of the people who have this training to help with that. This will be a huge component of that.”
Carver said the district-level training gave him a better perspective on bullying that takes place before students reach high school.
“At the high school, we know that there are students who don’t feel like they fit in and we’ve heard elementary teachers talk about socioeconomic bullying here,” he said. “We’re completely unaware of the history of these students, and if we’re just trying years later to build up a student’s sense of confidence or sense or inclusion after eight years of socioeconomic bullying, there’s nothing we can do.”
MORE INFO …
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
Willie Carver firstname.lastname@example.org
Sherri Clusky email@example.com
Lacy Gross firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Thompson email@example.com
A November 2015 Kentucky Teacher story about the implementation of Olweus at a Carter County school