The Orchard Park School District is ahead of the curve when it comes to anti-bullying measures, members of the School Board and the public were told Tuesday.
An update on the district's two-year-old Olweus Bullying Prevention Program was presented at the board's regular bimonthly meeting Tuesday by three school district administrators who have been certified to train others in the program.
Orchard Park Middle School Assistant Principal Kimberly Cirillo, Eggert Elementary Principal Terry Tryon and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Lisa Krueger all said that the evidence shows a significant decrease in bullying behavior since Orchard Park students took the first Olweus survey in September 2010.
Data from the most recent survey reveals that bullying at Orchard Park High School is below the national average, Krueger said.
"So our students are responding in a more positive way than the majority of students across our nation. I don't think Orchard Park High School would be satisfied to know that 13.1 percent of their students are still reporting that often or very often they're afraid of being bullied at school, but it's promising to know that we are below the national average, and we will simply continue to reduce that number even further," Krueger said.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program was developed in Norway and has gained international recognition as an effective tool for reducing bullying and producing measurable results.
"One of the things we do is conduct these class meetings. Really, it's character education on a regular basis," said Tryon, who, before this school year, was the House 2 principal at Orchard Park High School.
"In 2008-2009, administrators at the high school processed 550 referrals. The next year, 2009-2010, we processed 460 referrals. The following year, 2010-2011, we processed 405 referrals. Are you seeing a trend here?" Tryon asked.
He noted that at the end of the past school year, 289 referrals had been processed, revealing a continued drop.
"We're doing a lot of things in the building to address character . behavior and . the importance of choices and so forth," Tryon added.
In September, three more school districts in Erie County joined Orchard Park in implementing the program.
"It's really been wonderful for us to be at the forefront of this movement in Western New York. We were out ahead of this movement before the Dignity for All Students Act required this of school districts," said Krueger.
The act was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in September 2010, after Orchard Park had already begun implementing the Olweus program. The law required all school districts in the state to establish guidelines for a program that promotes a positive school environment free from discrimination and harassment by July 1, 2012.