“Abracadabra” is the operative term for many magicians, but Marty Hahne’s go-to words are also a message: “Let’s be bully free.”
Hahne visited Lee Elementary and Amanda Arnold Elementary on Wednesday for a visit that served as an introduction to the school year for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a national program the district uses.
Hahne, from Ozark, Mo., uses magic to deliver an anti-bullying message and get students aboard the bully-free T.E.A.M. The last word is an acronym for Treat others the way you want to be treated; Everybody deserves respect; (positive) Attitude, avoid trouble, ask for help; Make bullying stop, don’t join in.
“I discovered that magic was a great way to get a kid’s attention while delivering a message,” said Hahne, who has been doing magic programs for 27 years.
He goes to about 120 schools during the school year, and also does 50 libraries during summer reading programs. He talks about different topics, but bullying is the most requested one. Officials at both Lee and Amanda Arnold schools requested that Hahne talk to their students about the subject.
“Bullying is pretty much a problem whether I’m in big city schools or out in the country,” he said.
Hahne hopes his unique approach mitigates the marketing rule about a message needing to be heard at least seven times before it takes hold.
Hahne considers himself to be a supplement to the anti-bullying message that schools already provide. For instance, teachers have regular class discussions about bullying every two weeks at Lee, if not more frequently depending on need, principal Nancy Kole said.
“I realize I’m only here for one morning and not nine months like the teachers and principal,” Hahne said.
At Lee, the message was re-enforced by “No Bully Zone” t-shirts that had been given out Wednesday afternoon. The school purchased them for the students through fundraising and grants. Kole requested that all students wear the shirts Thursday as the first of several “No Bully Zone” shirt days.
“With such a high percentage of new students, we wanted to do something unifying,” said Sarah Olson, a social worker at Lee.
Due to redistricting, the first day of school at Lee began with more than 100 new students. The school’s faculty and staff have been working to include these new students into the culture of the school and make them feel more at ease with their new surroundings.
Kole said students within the district have the same type of bullying education, so the main message is letting the students know that the adults at Lee are aware of what’s going on.
“It’s trying to make them understand who that support system is in their new school,” she said. “You have to build that trust with someone. Otherwise they turn inward with their problems and try to work it out without consulting adults.”
Whether through seeing the bullying happen or students telling the teachers, the adults have to figure out how to handle the situation once it comes their way.
First, a definition of what’s considered bullying needs to applied. Kole said bullying is a repeated action often with the same victim that involves an intimidation factor. However, not every violent act is a definite act of bullying, she said.
“Other situations are just bad behavior,” Kole said. “Not every bad behavior is a bullying situation.”
Kole said every school has their own guidelines on how to handle the bullying situations. Lee Elementary considers three levels in the bullying areas of verbal, non-verbal, physical and cyber. “People always think of it as physical,” Kole said. “A lot of it is the gossip type of things.”
Every act of bullying gets logged into a behavior notebook for the student. Kole said this helps the school keep account of the incidents for the teachers, who sometimes might not know another incident has happened in the past.
Kole said most of the continued bullying cases end up with a behavior plan being developed for the bully. She said the plan is in place to reward children if their behavior improves as well as help them reflect when they do something wrong.
“We do this if it’s not clearing up or the child doesn’t understand what they’re doing wrong,” Kole said.
One thing that has changed over the years, Kole said, is the inclusion of both parties’ parents in the situation. She said the school is taking a more active approach to contact the parents of the victim along with the parents of the perpetrator. “Sometimes kids might not share with parents,” she said.
If some form of bullying is likely to always be around, the Olweus program at Lee and across the district could be looked at as a way to develop better ways to handle the situation. “Kids need to be empowered to know they are problem solvers,” Kole said.