Bullying focus of Manchester school's new program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Bullying focus of Manchester school's new program

St. Mary's Elementary School in Manchester is working toward becoming bully-free St. Mary's Elementary School in Manchester is working toward becoming bully-free

One eastern Iowa elementary school launched a new anti-bullying program Wednesday.

A bullying prevention program kickoff ceremony at St. Mary's Elementary School in Manchester drilled home the importance of sticking up for one another.

Vicki Palmer is the principal there.

"We decided at the start of this school year that we wanted to implement some kind of program," she said.

The school chose the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

"St. Mary's does not have an epidemic of bullying, by any means, but we know it does occur," Palmer said.

The school is making a concerted effort to reach out to kids while they're still young, Palmer said, "so that by the time they leave here, they will have learned those skills repeatedly, so when they go on to the middle school, where some of that bullying can occur again, that they may have the tools to help them get through some of those things."

The program aims to put the power in the hands of bystanders, which is a point fifth grade teacher Linda Fergesen appreciates.

"That's really empowering to know that, as a bystander, you can do something," Fergesen said. "I think there are probably people that would like to help, but they just didn't realize, maybe, that they should or that they could because they didn't know that they had that power."

Fergesen said now there's more public awareness than ever of the consequences of bullying.

"We don't want shootings in our school, we don't want suicides in our schools and, you know, no one wants their child to be the one involved in that," she said.

At Wednesday's kickoff event, the mayor came to read a proclamation, making official the ceremony. Local leaders and members of law enforcement also attended the event, showing the kids bullying is a serious topic.

Students signed posters, pledging to create a bully-free school.

Once a week in their classrooms, kids will discuss different forms of bullying, including cyber bullying, and how to stand up for their peers.

Palmer said this isn't a temporary campaign, but a permanent fixture within the school.

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