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Geneva Middle School is a Safer Place, Survey Finds

Principal Carmine Calabria suspected that the perception of bullying at Geneva Middle School is much worse than the reality.A schoolwide survey by professors at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, recently confirmed his suspicions. Now, bolstered by the results of the ³social norms² survey, Calabria is on a mission to spread the good word about the school.³The more we get the information in the hands of the kids, the more profound the impact,² Calabria said. He believes both the perception and reality ofbullying behavior will dramatically change for the better when the middle school students realize the perception of prevalent bullying is not thereality. He said students of Charles Temple, a professor of education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, will meet soon with the Student Council at the Middle School and other student leadership groups to work on ways to get out the information. The class of about 20 college students will visit the school on Nov. 17 to discuss the survey in classrooms, and a school assembly on the survey results will be held in December.The Web-based survey was administered to all Geneva Middle School students on Oct. 5-9. Allowing for absences and invalid data, valid responses totaled83. 7 percent of the school¹s 520 students, or 437 students in grades six through eight.Calabria said two survey questions clearly demonstrate that there is much less actual bullying at the school than students perceive there to be.In response to the question of how often the student had been a victim of pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, hair pulling or tripping, 242 said ³not in the last 30 days,² 84 ³Once,² 55 ³2-3 times¹¹ and 34 said ³4 or more times.²In response to the question of how often the students perceived others to be the victim of these behaviors, the responses were 60 ³not in the last 30 days,² 84 said ³Once,² 127 ³2-3 times¹¹ and 141 said ³4 or more times.²³The perception is not the reality,² Calabria said. ³We are becoming a safer and better school.¹¹ Efforts to reduce bullying behavior and improve the climate of the Middle School have been going on for years, said Calabria, who is in his third year as the school¹s principal. ³Instead of being reactive, we try to catch the kids doing things right and reward them.²The school has a PAWS program (Patient & Kind, Academic Excellence, Work Together, Safe & in Control) and students receive wristbands for helpingothers or exhibiting other good behaviors. The wristbands can be turned in for points that count toward a list of rewards developed by students, butCalabria said many students are keeping and wearing the wristbands.The Olweus program, which trains students and teachers on how to intervene in bullying incidents, is in its third year at the school. And the school istaking steps to support students¹ positive behaviors on school buses, in bathrooms and in the cafeteria and hallways to ensue safe environments in those areas, he said.Temple approached Calabria at the end of the past school year about conducting the social norms survey on bullying at the Middle School. The principal met with Temple and HWS professors H. Wesley Perkins and David W. Craig before going ahead with the survey, which was previously used in five New Jersey schools to reduce bullying behaviors.³We¹re very thankful to Hobart and William Smith² for the survey, Calabria said. He noted that another important part of the school¹s story is its improvingtrend of recent years by other measures.Based on student performance in relation to state and federal standards, the Middle School is in Academic Good Standing, he said. Based on Violent andDisruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) required annually by the state, the school¹s index has been consistently going down, ³indicating that we are asafer school.²

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