ANTI-BULLYING IN GENEVA – LOCAL SCHOOL LEADS THE WAY
As the new school year kicks off and students start what hopefully will be a less disruptive academic year, some parents may have concerns about children being bullied at school.
Bullying in schools is not new in Switzerland. What is new – and very reassuring – is that many schools are finally addressing the problem!
One local school that is leading the way, is the Institut International de Lancy (IIL) – who recently adopted a brand new anti-bullying programme.
Chase Jones, a secondary teacher and KiVa leader at IIL explains why the school has chosen to implement this internationally recognised anti-bullying programme in 2020.
WHAT SHOULD SCHOOLS DO ABOUT BULLYING?
Addressing bullying should not be limited to only having a procedure in place to deal with incidents, says Mr Jones. It is important to create an inclusive environment where students learn empathy and tolerance as well as resilience to overcome obstacles. As a school, we felt it was essential that every staff member is trained to recognize and handle any situation that could potentially become bullying.
WHY HAS IIL DECIDED TO INTRODUCE AN ANTI-BULLYING PROGRAMME NOW?
At IIL we have always focused on creating a tolerant environment. Under our new director general, we wanted to find a holistic and fully inclusive programme that also addresses bullying in a preventive way. After a few months of researching different options, we discovered the internationally recognised programme, KiVa, based in Finland. The KiVa programme offers a unique approach to unify the school’s efforts under a common banner:
“At IIL, we will not accept bullying. As a community, we are committed to creating a school in which every person feels safe to work, learn, and grow.”
WHY HAS IIL CHOSEN KIVA?
KiVa is a programme that ties together many of the approaches we already use at IIL. The KiVa programme addresses bullying in two ways: Universal actions and Targeted actions.
Universal actions represent the preventative measures integrated in different areas of the school. Depending on age, classroom lessons are dedicated twice a month to learn about emotions, develop empathy, and clearly identify what bullying is and how to help someone who is being bullied. The goal is to move students from being silent witnesses to becoming defenders of students who are being bullied. Other universal actions are directed at adults. All staff members, from kitchen staff to directors have now been trained by our KiVa trainers to enable them to recognize situations and support students.
Target actions are implemented when a bullying incident is reported or suspected. The KiVa Intervention team will meet with the students involved and work with them to help them recognize, address and stop the bullying. A follow up protocol is put in place to ensure the behaviour has been corrected.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN FROM STUDENTS AND STAFF MEMBERS SO FAR?
We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone. To kick off the programme our training team visited every classroom to introduce the concept, explain the definition of bullying and asked students to complete an anonymous questionnaire. This is a requirement of the KiVa programme to give us a quantifiable measure of where we are and how we are evolving.
Teachers and directors see the KiVa programme as a great asset to help students strengthen personal and social-emotional skills. It also is a prevention tool that ultimately should help students improve academically in an environment where they feel safe to be themselves. When children feel safe, they are able to take risks, develop confidence to grow and learn.
ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO SUPPORT THE KIVA PROGRAMME?
At IIL, we consider the KiVa programme as a base to which other, specific efforts will be added. We will continue our Empathy Workshops for early secondary students where we explore the concepts of “debate versus dialogue”. In these workshops, students learn to listen to each other and respect other opinions.
IIL will also be kicking off a collaboration with Amnesty International Switzerland for specific workshops and events.
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