After a survey found that students didn’t feel safe in their Pueblo, Colorado community, the Safe Haven for Pueblo Bullying Victims Project stepped in to make a difference.
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students group got help from more than 700 students to design posters denouncing bullying. They then reached out to business owners to hang the posters in their windows, to show their community support for the project. The posters alert students that these businesses will provide a refuge for them if they are being bullied or feel unsafe. The business owners agreed to help youth arrange for someone to pick up any students who are being bullied and to let them wait there until a safe ride arrives. The owners are also educating their staff members about bullying and how to help youth involved.
To help spread the word, the group enlisted its community partners as project sponsors and then pounded the pavement to engage new businesses through local TV, radio and print media.
The response from business owners has been overwhelmingly positive. Approximately 200 businesses in the Pueblo City Schools area, as well as in the neighboring Pueblo District 70, have joined the project. Program and Curriculum Specialist Maria Fieth remarked, “Kids want to feel safe. And somehow those posters all over town have destabilized the idea that bullying is the norm. Kids feel empowered.”
The team produced a four-minute video that describes the project and how to use the Safe Haven resources. The video has been viewed by more than 23,000 students.
Over the first three years of the program, the number of students who reported bullying another student two to three times per month or more in the past couple of months decreased by 34% in the elementary schools, 18% in the middle schools, and 10% in the high schools. In addition, the number of students who reported that they “try to help the bullied student” when asked how do they usually react, increased by 21% in the elementary schools, 42% in the middle schools, and 21% in the high schools.
Students have a right to be safe at school and in their community, and if students do not feel safe at school, learning is affected,” said Fieth. “We consider it our duty to help students, staff, families, and the community understand the impact of bullying behavior and violence in schools.”