By Garrett Estrada

Ely Times Staff Writer

The American School Board Journal recognized the White Pine County School District’s implementation of an anti-bullying measure called a “bully survey” on March 5 as a winner of the ASBJ’s Magna award.

According to the ASBJ’s website, the Magna award “honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning.”

The school district, which was one of five nationwide winners in the “under 5,000 enrollment” category, won for its innovative four-question survey given to students to help identify bullies in the school.

In an article published about the “bully survey,” the ASBJ says it has helped White Pine Middle School reduce ìincidents of student-on-student violenceî by more than 80 percent. At the high school, the program was attributed to there being only two student fights reported in the last three years.

“The culture of respect has become the norm in the schools and extends into the entire community,” the ASBJ’s article states.

The way the program works is surprisingly simple. Students are asked these four questions: Where does bullying occur? What time of day? What is the form of bullying? Who are the victims and who are the bullies?

Students found to be bullies will have a meeting with school administrators, guidance counselors and their parents to talk with them about their behavior. Many times, the students identified as bullies weren’t aware their peers saw them that way. The key to the program’s success lies in the way it offers support to the students ìon the bully listî and rewards them when their classmates no longer consider them bullies.

“While bullies did experience consequences for their behavior, the primary concern was on changing the behavior,” the ASBJ states, adding that more traditional systems of punishing students for bullying “did not help stop the negative behaviors.”

Superintendent Bob Dolezal said he was proud of the school board staff for not only coming up with a way to effectively lower the amount of bullying that takes place in local schools, but also for providing an easy to follow model for other districts that deal with similar issues.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the efforts that the school board staff have made in improving things for students, especially in dealing with bullying issues, which is a challenge for every school district,” Dolezal said.

School Board member Pete Mangum credited Dolezal and former White Pine Middle School Principal Aaron Hansen for coming up with an “assignment” to deter the bullying problem at the school.

In a report titled “White Pine Middle School — Making Significant Cultural Change: It’s All About Relationships,” Hansen and his former Assistant Principal Rebecca Murdock say that by setting the “survey” up as a question and answer interaction between the school and students, school administrators “control enough of the variables in students’ lives to make a difference.”

Members of the White Pine school board will be flown to New Orleans on to be recognized for the award at a “Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon” held during the National School Board Association annual conference on April 5.