BRIDGTON, Maine — When bullying incidents on Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) #61’s buses grew to a troublesome level, the transportation department’s employees took action, developing an anti-bullying campaign that has had positive results.
Earlier this year, Transportation Director Andy Madura reviewed referrals made by bus drivers during the last school year, and 50% were from bullying incidents, Line Mulcahy, a bus driver/trainer for the district, told SBF.
Mulcahy and her colleague, Mary Cleveland, also a driver trainer, were tasked by Madura to develop an anti-bullying campaign.
Mulcahy said that as she and Cleveland did research, they found that bullying is a national crisis, and that with kids communicating by cell phone and through the Internet, bullying has reached tragic levels across the country.
“I remember back when I was young, name calling along with pushing and shoving were all actions of ‘kids being kids,’ and adults simply responded, ‘Let them work it out,’” Mulcahy said. “Remember the old saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?’ Well, not today. So … we educated, educated, educated our students, our staff and our community.”
To aid in developing bullying awareness, Mulcahy and Cleveland made posters for the inside of all MSAD #61’s buses with bullying prevention tips and information on what victims of bullying should do, and yellow T-shirts were made for all drivers, mechanics and office personnel declaring the district a bully-free zone.
“Brochures, banners and posters have been made for all the schools,” Mulcahy added. “Our slogan is very simple: 'See Something, Say Something, Do Something.'”
In addition, Mulcahy and Cleveland discovered that three of the district’s students composed a song on bullying. Songwriter and guitarist Christian Martin, a seventh-grader, joined forces with bass guitarist Ella Forbes, an eighth-grader, and ninth-grade drummer Max Evans to perform the song. (To read the lyrics, click here. To watch a video of the students performing the song, click here.)
The district’s anti-bullying message, complete with a performance by Martin, Forbes and Evans, was brought before the district’s staff on the first day of school, as well as to school board members.
“We even brought this to our governor [Paul LePage] and the Maine State Board of Education in Augusta,” Mulcahy said. “The message is for people to open their eyes and ears to what is going on around them.”
The transportation department’s efforts have had an impact. Mulcahy said that drivers have been able to stop incidents from escalating on their buses.
“I think once the students saw the immediate intervention, it was almost a sigh of relief to them, and we are getting full cooperation from the schools,” she added. “Bus slips are given out, plus phone calls are made to the parents, both from the school and the bus drivers.”
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