Retreat teaches underclassmen respect to combat bullying - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Retreat teaches underclassmen respect to combat bullying

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Anyone with kids knows about it and so many kids and their parents deal with it on a daily basis. Bullying is such a big problem in this country. This year Hempstead High School in Dubuque is taking a proactive approach to stopping the problem. It starts with respect.

It's called a Respect Retreat. It's for 9th graders at Hempstead.  For two days, split up into two groups of 200, students headed to Clarke University and addressed the root of all bullying problems: respect.

It isn't your average day in the classroom. But believe it or not, 9th grade students from Hempstead are here for class.

"We started with a lot of icebreaker opportunities with the kids. To get away from their best friend that they are sitting with," Hempstead Principal Lee Kolker said. "The goal of the day is to have everybody treated with respect. For a full day."

The retreat is a program put on by Minneapolis based Youth Frontiers. It's a change to get students thinking about their actions, respecting themselves and each other.

"When you're little you're taught, this is a good example, this is a bad example. And a lot of those responses are conditioned answers and we're trying to get deeper than that," Senior Hannah Koerperick said.

The program combines fun activities with serious discussions. And concludes with a special "campfire" setting to gives students the opportunity to reflect.

"And what does that look like and how can we carry that message back into Hempstead for the remainder of the year their time in high school," Kolker said.

School officials are hoping to change the culture. Especially after an unusual number of fights first semester that lead to a ban on plain white t-shirts for a day. All because some students planned to wear the shirts as a show of white supremacy.

Now, student leaders hope a day of reflection and respect will make the difference.

"If something got through. A little something got through. If not a lot," Koerperick said.

The retreat ended at 1:00 PM, Tuesday afternoon. Students went back to Hempstead, stayed in their small groups and designed a t-shirt to represent what they learned. By the way there were 30 upperclassman that served as student leaders during the two days.

Principal Kolker says he hopes this becomes a yearly tradition, that kicks off the school year. He thinks it will help make transition to high school easier for students.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

Follow Lauren on Twitter.

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