'We are changing the culture in our school," Assistant Principal Heather Ward tells Board of Education

Lincoln Junior High students are taking the battle against bullying up another step, and, as Lincoln assistant principal Heather Ward told the District's Board of Education, it's starting to pay off.

“The culture of our school is changing,” Ward told the board at a recent meeting. “We're starting to see more kids come in and report bullying They're gaining that confidence that something is going to happen.”

On the same day Ward spoke to the board, Lincoln teacher Chandra Fickle and a group of students visited the Taft Rotary Club.

They are taking the anti-bullying message into the community as well.

Fickle said Lincoln is also breaking new ground. It is the first junior high in the nation with a “Waking Up Courage” campaign.

That's in addition to the Safe School Ambassadors program started in 2005 which includes 67 students with 9 adult advisors.

Fickle and students Tiana Iniguez, Veronica Escobar, Timothy Curry, Jordan Blaska and Sawyer Maier educated the Rotarians on the anti-bullying programs and handed out signs for local businesses to place in their windows to let children know it is a safe haven if they are being bullied out in the community.

That's a key step, Ward told the board.

“Now we are getting the community involved so its a social issue, not a school issue.

The students in the ambassadors program play a key role in helping adults step in to end bullying.

“They are the first responders,” Fickle told the Rotarians. “They are on scene when bullying occurs.

While students are not supposed to get involved in a physical confrontation, they are there to do the right thing, which includes reporting it and sticking up for victims.
“They are the up standers, not bystanders,” Fickle said.

Both Fickle and Ward have attended anti-bullying seminars.

Ward said many of the reports coming in aren't bullying but just conflicts.

Bullying involves an “imbalance in power,” she said, in which the victim in fear of the agressor,.

But even standard conflicts are being used as “teachable moments,” she said.

Each report of bullying is documented, even if it is not bullying.

That is crucial, both Ward and Superintendent Ron Bryant said, because there is an increasing trend in lawsuits being filed not only against schools but individual teachers and administrators targeting their homeowners insurance.

By documenting the cases, the district can protect itself against liability.