Around 40 students from A.C. Blunt Middle School from various social groups gathered together at Compton Hall earlier this week for one purpose - to prevent bullying from occurring on their campus.
In the past two weeks, these students from A.C. Blunt, along with two other groups of students at Aransas Pass High School and Charlie Marshall Elementary, received training to become Safe School Ambassadors.
The program identifies students who are influential to their peers and trains them to identify signs of mistreatment and defuse potentially harmful situations.
“[This] is a district-wide program that was started this year,” APISD superintendent Dr. Royce Avery explained.
“We are the only district in the region doing this intensive program, and we are doing everything we can to address the issue of bullying.”
Senior ambassador trainer John Linney worked with APISD student ambassadors for the past two weeks, giving the students scenes to analyze and assess appropriate ways to approach bullying situations.
“It’s about fellow students influencing aggressors to make better decisions while protecting potential targets by using non-violent communications skills to reduce conflict and prevent things from escalating,” Linney said. “They are not being trained to break up fights; they want to stop it before it starts.”
Five to six staff members at each of the campus also received training to become group facilitators that will oversee meetings with ambassador groups every two weeks to discuss what happened and how the ambassadors addressed any problems.
The ambassadors will also look at data to see whether there are any particular times or campus hotspots where bullying tends to occur.
“It’s building relationships between students and adults so the students can feel like they can talk the adult if there is a problem,” Linney said. “Safety is made by improving those relationships and that changes the entire school culture. It becomes cool to be kind.”
Avery added, “Usually these programs are an outside-in approach but with this program, it’s from the inside out. Kids work out a solution, and I think it’s a very unique approach to changing the school climate.”
Parent sessions for each participating campus were also held during the training period, which ended with a school-wide assembly introducing the program to all students.
In addition, student ambassadors from Charlie Marshall Elementary will be mentoring students at Kieberger Elementary and Faulk Early Childhood in the program.
The Safe School Ambassadors program comes in tandem with a new communication service called Talk About It, which allows students anonymously inform staff about bullying via text or online messaging.
“I’m very excited about the program, and I’m very appreciative of the board for their support of this opportunity,” Avery said. We are very, very fortunate.”