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ISD 833 kids getting 'character development' this school year

Bullying behavior is more than shoving others on a school playground. Bullies also intimidate, call kids names, exclude some kids from activities and seek power over others.

School District 833 students have been getting the message over the past three years that "bullying" is not allowed anywhere on school property.

The school board also approved a policy that includes sanctions for bullying. If other students see someone being bullied and make no attempt to stop the bullying or find an adult, they too can be punished.

But how do kids learn to deal with bullies who usually find their victims away from the eyes of adults or teachers?

In recent years, actors from CLIMB Theater have presented programs in district schools. Through acting and role-playing, kids learn what to say to a bully and how to act.

They learn to take "assertive steps" to cope and most importantly, how to stay safe and tell an adult they trust about the bullying behavior.

"It's not tattling," said CLIMB Actor Maggie Killian to Hillside fourth-graders.

CLIMB actors brought programs to all Hillside students last week including a program for kindergartners.

CLIMB actors will be at every District 833 elementary school and junior high during the school year, due to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The State Legislature passed a law during the last legislative session appropriating $1.5 million for "character development education" in schools.

District 833 recently received a $180,813 grant to provide character education and is contracting with CLIMB as the provider.

District Grant Coordinator Jody Witte said the district received the money based on the number of students in the district.

CLIMB is on a list of providers approved by state education officials. Witte said CLIMB was hired because the district has had positive experiences with the theater in the past.

The grant pays for the residency, bullying presentations, videotapes and posters. The theater will also provide professional development to teachers and staff members on how to incorporate CLIMB activities and strategies in classroom lessons and activities.

Issues to be addressed during the residency include bullying, respect and self-control.

Each elementary and junior high school will get a school assembly presentation and two additional visits to all classrooms.

Each school will get $1,500 for supplies and materials to conduct a service-learning project that supports the character traits addressed throughout the years.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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