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Cissy LeBlanc has three children in Catholic schools, including two at St. Pius Tenth School in Chili.
"Two years ago, a very close family friend's 14-year-old son committed suicide because of bullying, so it's something that hits home pretty close," said LeBlanc. "I use their son as an example all the time with my children... when you see things happening, to not just sit back."
It's the kind of conversation more and more parents are having with their children. School districts in New York must adhere to the Dignity Act that aims to create an environment in schools, free from discrimination, harassment and bullying. But every district is free to adopt its own policies or procedures.
All 19 elementary and one middle school that are part of the Diocese of Rochester will be adopting the same Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. That's more than 4,000 students from Pre-K to eighth grade.
"The main priority for us is that our children are always safe. Catholic schools have always provided that. This just creates a program that all of our schools can use together and collectively speak with the same language," said Catholic Schools superintendent Anthony Cook.
The Olweus Program is aimed at all students, not just those involved in the bullying directly. It teaches them how to report what they've seen, when and how to intervene appropriately and how to support the child being bullied. Some core teachers and staff members like sixth-grade teacher Carrie Kirk have already undergone the training.
"I think it's a wonderful way to introduce a culture of anti-bullying and a way of empowering students who may not know how to speak up for their classmates and give them a way to say, 'Hey, that's not right. We shouldn't be treating each other that way.' And it's a great way to talk about it within a classroom setting," said Kirk.
Administrators say they like the program because it also reaches beyond the classroom.
"It goes into your office staff, your cafeteria staff. It involves the parent community because the issues are not just isolated to here in the schools," said St. Pius Tenth principal Stephen Oberst. "It's on social networks, Facebook. So when kids go home, sometimes the bullies follow them right into their bedrooms, and we have to make parents aware of this and children aware of this and what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, and we can't wait until they're in junior or senior high."
Students will be given surveys asking them about when and where they see bullying. The results of those will help tailor future policies tied to the program at each school.
All teachers will be trained next month. The program will kick off for all students in January.