To foster safe and respectful learning environments by hosting conversations with the Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Task Force and by creating a bystander empowerment program
What has been most instrumental to your progress?:
COLLABORATIVE. The Anti-bullying/Anti-harassment Task Force met monthly throughout the 2014-2015 school
year. Meeting activities consisted of invited presentations by district leaders, document review, and small and large
group conversations. Documents reviewed included district bullying and harassment policies, Anti-bullying/Antiharassment
Guiding Principles, communication plan, survey reports, and Consent Decree. The task force invested
considerable time examining student perception data collected and analyzed by the school district and the
Minnesota Department of Education.
The task force included 29 members including students, parents, teachers, principals, district administrators, and
additional community representatives. It was important that the make-up of the membership was representative of
our community considering gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and area of district residence.
The ongoing, regularly scheduled, monthly meetings which included representatives from all identified stakeholder
groups has helped shift community perception of the district’s anti-bullying/anti-harassment efforts.
INCLUSIVE. External, expert facilitators, Paula Forbes and Dawn Ellison, utilized inclusive, participatory methods
to host the meetings.
The underlying intent of every meeting was to create an inclusive and participatory space that honored diverse
perspectives. The group acknowledged that members would not agree on everything and all perspectives would be heard. Group norms and ground rules were established at the first meeting and reviewed at every meeting. The
group agreed to the following ground rules for all meetings: listen with attention and speak with intention; no fixing
or advice; when you find yourself in judgment, seek to understand; all are responsible for the well-being of the
group; no stories should be attributed or shared without the express permission of the storyteller.
Utilizing external facilitators trained in the Art of Hosting meeting practice was instrumental in ensuring inclusive,
RESOURCEFUL. TEST AND IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS. Based on a recommendation from the community Task Force, the district wrote anti-bullying lesson plans to be delivered to all middle school students. The lessons included a general theme around becoming an “upstander” and taught skills that anyone can use to be a peer leader by intervening in bullying situations. The lesson plans were modeled after a successful high school “bystander” program already in place. It was helpful to have the high school model to learn and pull from.
Teachers convened for two days over the summer to learn about the 3 D’s (Direct, Distract, Delegate) for violence prevention and to write lessons for students in grades 6, 7, and 8. The lessons include engaging, simple instruction to help students understand what it means to be a good school citizen (upstander) and what they can do to safely intervene in bullying situations (3 D’s). It was important that the resources were aligned with current efforts. The theme throughout the lessons, “No one has to do everything but everyone has to do something,” was then embedded into each school’s current efforts to promote positive school culture.
Key lessons learned:
IDENTIFY NEED. In its first year as an advisory committee, the task force made nine foundational
recommendations aimed at developing a framework for anti-bullying and anti-harassment work. Building on this
framework, the task force developed five action-oriented recommendations its second year. Over the past three
years, the connection between the community task force and the Anoka-Hennepin Anti-bullying and Antiharassment
Leadership Team has evolved, which has allowed for information sharing between the community
advisory committee and the internal leadership team to further drive this work throughout the district. At the
conclusion of its third year as an advisory committee, the task force has increased its collective understanding of
the issue of bullying and harassment, engaged in inclusive and collaborative activities to analyze the scope of the
problem, and generated ideas for addressing the issue to move the district closer to eliminating bullying and
harassment in our schools.
BUILD COLLECTIVE UNDERSTANDING. Attendance at the monthly meetings was difficult for many members. A few meetings conflicted with parent-teacher conferences and other school events which was difficult for students, teachers, principals, and parents. Attendance was most difficult for students, conflicts with jobs and after-school activities. The group felt the most important voices were those of students and at some meetings only one student was present. If we want students to be included, we need to change how and when we do our work. Moving forward, we plan to invite more students to be included in the task force, hold fewer meetings, and be more strategic about how we are gaining understanding with and from students in a way that serves students. Task force activities for the upcoming year will center around an event which will include students from schools all across the school district. The event will be held during the school day with transportation provided for students. The task force will meet ahead of time to prepare for the event and then again after in order to continue to develop strategies, informed by students, to eliminate bullying and harassment in our schools.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving:
All three elements of the community innovation process – inclusive, collaborative,
and resources – are equally important in this work. Bullying is a societal issue that manifests itself in communities and schools. In order to address the issue in schools, the school district has determined that it is important to include all stakeholders in evaluating the problem and collaborating on potential solutions. Anoka-Hennepin is a public school district with limited funds to dedicate to this work. It is important to be resourceful and collaborate with community partners to provide programming. Students, parents, staff, and community members must work together in order to address this societal issue. This grant funding provides a portion of the financial resources to make that happen. Being a recipient of a Community Innovations Grant provides the task force permission to try out innovative ideas and learn from failure.
Other key elements of Community Innovation:
The Anoka-Hennepin School Board has been supportive and willing to take shared risks surrounding the work of our anti-bullying and anti-harassment efforts.
Understanding the problem:
BUILD CAPACITY. The Anoka-Hennepin School District’s community Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Task Force continues to support the district’s commitment to create a school climate where all students feel welcome, safe, and ready to learn. The task force strives to make recommendations driven by data so that the district may take informed action. The task force, which includes mostly adult members (staff and parents), agreed that the current anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies are strong and no changes to district policy are being recommended at this time. As a school district, student voices are a part of a number of data collection avenues. However, task force members feel the policies and practices have not been critically analyzed through a student lens. Additional
information, especially student voice, is needed to understand the impact and effectiveness of the range of antibullying and anti-harassment strategies in progress within the district. In its desire to continue to move forward with
this work, the task force recommends dedicating next year’s work to analyzing its efforts, centered around student voice.
If you could do it all over again...:
RESOURCEFUL. Be realistic about your capacity to complete this project. The proposed budget for others’ time and materials was accounted for in the grant application. I underestimated the amount of time I would be able to dedicate to
this project. The management and the magnitude of the project have taken a lot of time. The scope of the project should have been narrowed in order to provide for the amount of time and capacity available to dedicate to this grant project.
This is reflected in the financial report as to what was projected in year one versus actual dollars spent. I anticipate the projected and actual budget will be in more alignment during year two of the grant.