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Lacey school attacks bullying with social skills

"Five days a week for 30 minutes instead of having that big lunch recess like you would see in a typical elementary school, our teachers are out there with their classes working with kids on rules of the game and sportsmanship and conflict resolution," said Seven Oaks Elementary Principal Ron Sisson.

We all know that bullying is a big problem in the schools, and it's gotten worse as bullying has gone from the playground to social media where the abuse is more psychological than physical.

Schools have long struggled with how to combat bullying, but one elementary school in Lacey is attacking the problem in a unique way.

Seven Oaks Elementary goes after bullying by teaching manners, conflict resolution and social skills, trying to prevent it before it actually happens.

It holds two full days of social training at the start of each school year focusing on how to deal with conflicts and arguments so they don't fester and spill into mean emails, texts, posts on Facebook or physical fights.

The kids are drilled on fairness, responsibility, respect, empathy and dignity, but it doesn't stop at those two days. Principal Ron Sisson said those principles are drilled every day.

"Five days a week for 30 minutes instead of having that big lunch recess like you would see in a typical elementary school, our teachers are out there with their classes working with kids on rules of the game and sportsmanship and conflict resolution," he said.

Sisson said the teachers are actually playing the games with the kids so they can step in and teach the proper way to handle situations.

"If a student happens to be 'out' in foursquare, for example, and doesn't like it, it's a great learning opportunity for the teacher to step in and say, 'OK, how do we handle this the right way?'"

Sisson said this approach has cut down on after-recess problems where those disputes used to spill over into the classroom. The kids deal with the issue with the teacher's help and move on.

"What we've noticed is that those same social skills translate over into the regular recess and kind of that arrival time before school where we see those same skills being utilized when there aren't adults around."

Sisson is one of the headliners at a panel discussion Thursday night on bullying in front of principals from around the nation in Seattle. He said giving kids the skills for positive conflict resolution can go a long way to helping the problem.

"These are things that we can implement that don't take a lot of resources," Sisson said. "They don't add things to people's already pretty full plates, but they're kind of lower-level things that we can do that have a lot of leverage and make a big difference in a school."

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About the Author


Chris Sullivan is a traffic reporter for KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He cares deeply about the amount of time you spend sitting in Seattle traffic.

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