ACS survey polls students’ thoughts on bullying

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – A recent anonymous survey administered to a group of Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Thompson Middle School and Thompson High School students revealed most students do not have an issue with bullying, and the school system’s Student Services Department is using the information to implement a new suicide prevention program and place more of a focus on mental health, according to school leaders.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Alabaster City Schools administered about 1,700 PRIDE surveys to students in sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades at TMS and THS, seeking the students’ thoughts on social, emotional and bullying concerns at their schools.

“The overall results show that our students feel safe in school and the majority of students do not report bullying,” said ACS Student Services Coordinator Dorann Tanner. “However, we want all students to love school and feel comfortable at school so we will use these findings to help focus our interventions.”

The surveys returned the following findings:

 

-Other students shoved or hit you? 83.2 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

-Other students left you out of things? 80.3 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

-Other students called you mean names? 72 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

-Other students teased you in a hurtful way? 78.6 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

-Other students told lies or spread false rumors about you? 75.4 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

-Other students used the internet or cellphone to embarrass you? 91 percent of students replied not true/somewhat not true

The survey also asked students to rate school safety and school culture on a one-to-four scale, returning a 3 for school culture and a 3.01 on school safety.

“If students score the areas 3.0 or higher, they are reporting a high confidence in a supportive learning environment,” Tanner said.

Tanner said ACS is adding the new suicide prevention program with the upcoming school year, and is “working to become more intentional and focused on bullying prevention through kindness campaigns and promoting healthy coping skills.”

Tanner said ACS is taking the following steps to focus on mental health and suicide prevention:

 

-Implementing a national, evidence-based Signs of Suicide program for all staff members and students in grades six-12 to help them recognize warning signs, know how to intervene and how to provide support.

-Continuing to collaborate with Chilton/Shelby Mental Health to provide all students access to a licensed mental health counselor at no cost, who will meet with students as needed during non-instructional time and will also provide crisis intervention, family counseling and case management.

-ACS hired a bilingual counselor to work with students in need of counseling services who have limited or no English. The counselor will provide individual and family counseling at no cost.

-ACS added the Botivin Life Skills program at Thompson Sixth Grade Center, which is an evidenced-based program teaching students life skills, coping skills and substance abuse prevention.

-Continuation of the Warrior therapy dog program.

-Free, eight-week Positive Parenting classes will be offered three times per year. New this year will be teen support group and family support group components.

-Senior and graduate level social work students from The University of Alabama, Louisiana State University and the University of Montevallo will provide mentoring and small group services to students throughout the school year.

-Each school has a Peer Helper program and school counselors at each school provide individual, small group and large group counseling services.

-Big Brothers/Big Sisters partners with ACS to provide mentors for students through middle school.

-Anonymous Alerts-this program allows students, parents, community members to submit concerns via text or email. ACS received 45 alerts in the district last school year.

-Backpack Buddies will continue to provide weekend and holiday meal support for kids at risk for hunger.

-Employee Assistance Program- American Behavior provides up to three counseling sessions for employees and their dependents each year.