Students Push Message Of Peace
By: Alex Scofield
A multicolor banner across the entryway to the James F. Peebles Elementary School sends a simple message to all those who enter: “We Are Peace Builders.”
Just in case that banner does not send a strong enough message, there is another one behind the receptionist’s desk and plenty of students eager to remind visitors to the school about their peace-building mission.
Peebles School, along with the Bournedale Elementary School, adopted the Peace Builders program earlier this year as a way to detect and address the causes of bullying in the early grades before they lead to more serious problems as students get older.
The Peace Builders program, developed by Peace Partners Inc. of San Diego, California, is based around the basic tenets of honoring behavior that is helpful and noticing actions that hurt others.
Jane Norton, director of health and physical education for the Bourne School District, said she believes the program will be successful because it puts in place a system that encourages students to consider the consequences of hurtful behavior.
There is also a consistent vocabulary that is put in place, Ms. Norton said.
Students are taught to recognize “putdowns” and “hurts” and replace them with “praises.”
“[The Peace Builders Program] gives kids an opportunity to be a part of recognizing and correcting behavior,” she said. “It’s not just saying ‘I hurt you’ and “I’m sorry” and “I won’t do it again.” They actually devise a plan, called a peace treaty, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
A peace treaty requires students who have “caused a hurt” to recognize and write down what they have done to hurt someone else and how they can replace hurtful behaviors with helpful ones.
The treaty is then signed by both the child who caused the hurt and the one who brought it to the attention of the adult.
Students in 4th grade teacher Donna D. Fitzsimmons’s class said because of Peace Builders, school feels a little different now.
“You don’t get put down anymore,” said Diana Campbell, a 4th grader. “You also feel like people who used to bully you can become your friends.”
Students said they are now more eager to point out when a classmate’s behavior hurts them, or when they notice a fellow student is being treated unfairly or being bullied.
Rhyan Ullo said, because of the Peace Builders curriculum, she felt confident enough to tell her friends they should allow a group of boys to join a game they were playing at recess, rather than excluding them.
“I told my friends, ‘I think we should all play together,’ ” she said. “They took my advice, and we all played together.”
Fourth grader Julia Doyle said the program also helped her feel better after she lost her temper and hurt the feelings of one of her friends.
Though far from a bully, Julia admitted in front of all of her classmates that she had gotten frustrated while working with a classmate and called her stupid.
“She told me that what I said hurt her feelings, and I apologized and told her I didn’t mean it and I only said it because I had gotten frustrated.”
Julia said she felt much better after having that kind of conversation with her friend because it gave her a chance to think about what she said, and why she said it.
“We’re still friends,” Julia said.
Ms. Norton said another key to Peace Builders being an actual success, rather than just a well-intended but empty initiative, is community buy-in.
Selectmen voted in April to declare May Peace Builders Month, and this year annual Town Meeting with voters being asked to recite the Peace Builders pledge, in which they committed to people, give up put downs, seek wise people, notice and speak up about hurts they have caused, right wrongs and help others.
Some of Ms. Fitzsimmons’s 4th graders were also at Town Meeting, wearing Peace Builders T-shirts and greeting voters as they entered the school.
The schools have also planned a pair of events in the coming weeks to bring the Peace Builders message to parents.
On Tuesday, May 11, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM at the Bournedale Elementary School, teaches will give a presentation on bringing the Peace Builders program into the homes of students.
Then, on Wednesday, May 12, at 6:30 PM at the Bourne Middle School Library, Jennifer McNulty, assistant district attorney for the Cape & Islands, will talk to parents about the criminal consequences of bullying, cyberbullying, and negative texting. She will also provide intervention strategies for parents to help control use of technology and stop bullying.
Mary D. Duffy, a teacher at the Peebles School, admitted that the impact of the Peace Builders Program has been infectious.
“It goes for everyone, not just the students, but the adults, too,” she said.
“It’s simple stuff, morals. It’s really made an impact.
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