Students at San Francisco's Rooftop Middle School are getting their first chance to put new anti-bullying skills to the test after a two-day training led by Santa Rosa-based Community Matters. Similar programs are taking place across the Bay Area in elementary, middle and high schools as concern about bullying grows. The program helps give kids the self-confidence to stand up for others.
Forty-three Rooftop middle schoolers are learning to become Safe School Ambassadors. Rooftop chose these students to participate after they were identified as leaders by their peers. Sydney is a sixth grader. She's surprised other students look up to her, but hopes she can stop some of the bullying she's already seen. "I have seen just a little bit of name-calling and some little bits of bullying around school, and I just feel really bad for a lot of the other kids," she said.
The Safe Schools Ambassador program tries to help "alpha-students," the ones heading any clique, to use their compassion and charisma to change school culture. Annette Schyadre facilitates the training. She says it's important that students know they have a special role and responsibility to stop bullying.
"We help them to understand how they can behave in ways that can change it. That only they can change it. That they see, hear, and know things that adults don't, so they're more apt to be able to intervene before things get out of hand. And as a result they change the climate of their school," she said.
Schyadre teaches students to disrupt teasing by changing the subject, offsetting cruelty with positive comments and reasoning with their peers. Over the course of the year, the student ambassadors will meet often to support one another.