Project Bulldog Combats Bullying at AMS

By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN

News Director

Recently, parents and students were invited to Alliance Middle School to learn more about how Project Bulldog is helping to prevent bullying and foster a positive school community.

Project Bulldog evolved from a program that started with students who are now sophomores at Alliance High School. Since then the project has grown, incorporating new ideas and educating students and parents about bullying and how to prevent it.

AMS School Counselor Michael Garcia gave the presentation, detailing the differences between being a target and being a victim, and why making that distinction is important.

“When I talk about kids who are being targeted for bullying, I call them targets, I don’t call them victims because, in my mind, if you’re being victimized, you can’t do anything about it. To be a target is a little different from being a victim,” said Garcia.

Bullying, Garcia said, has three distinct characteristics: intent, power and repetition. He explained that most of the bullying cases that they handle at AMS spill over from issues and conflicts online and over the phone.

When a report of bullying arises, Garcia works to determine whether the issue is bullying, or the result of teasing, conflict or a mean moment. He encourages students who believe they are being bullied to go ask an adult for help.

“We do a survey every year, and one of the big reasons kids say they don’t report bullying is because they don’t want to be called a tattletale, or a snitch,” Garcia said. “They will go to report bullying, and the adult they report it to says ‘okay, all right, stop tattling.’ So we teach the kids that tattling is different from reporting. The way we demonstrate that is, if we’re using words like everybody, all the time, every day, those real vague words, then we’re dealing with tattling.”

He encourages those students who give those reports to give specific details, which can then help the adult determine whether it is a case of bullying.

Garcia explained that there are consequences for bullying, whether students and parents see that, though the way to address the issue has changed.

“They report something, and then they don’t see anything happen. So, they assume that nothing happens when they report something. So, we kind of run into trouble,” Garcia said.

Some of the ways to reduce bullying in the schools, Garcia said, are to have a program like Project Bulldog, encouraging student intervention, listening to students targeted by bullying and having students show support for one another.

Garcia noted that perception is important, explaining that there have been many reports of bullying at AMS, but that, in reality, it is limited. He said Alliance Middle School is recognized by the state for their work to limit bullying.

“We don’t have a whole lot of bullying at the middle school right now, but that doesn’t mean that we stop doing this; that doesn’t mean that we stop teaching kids and stop working with kids, because we’re not going to take the easy way out,” said Garcia. “We’re going to keep working at it and keep making it better. We’re going to do everything we can to make it a minimal problem and continue to be a minimal problem.

“When I took over as counselor, there was this perception that Alliance Middle School was some kind of war zone; teachers turned a blind eye and it was just this terrible, horrible place where nobody got along and there were these fights all the time. It just wasn’t true. It’s like a big family over here. The state of Nebraska recognizes Alliance Middle School as this amazing school for new students to come to because they are so accepted when they first come here. Our kids are super accepting of brand new kids. That was our perception.”