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San Bernardino County Area Schools Implement Student-led Anti-Bullying Initiative

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During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 900 San Bernardino County school students will be equipped, engaged and empowered to use nonviolent communication skills to prevent and stop bullying and violence.The initiative is a partnership between the Institute for Advancing Unity, the Southern Californian Schools Risk Management Joint Powers Authority, and Community Matters.

For many students, schools are a place where they don’t feel welcome, safe, or included. The National School Safety Center reports that 25,000 students daily are the targets of attacks, shakedowns, or robberies in secondary school. Administrators have generally adopted a fortress mentality―increasing supervision and surveillance, while restricting access and setting stricter policies with tougher consequences.

But this unprecedented initiative will bring the Safe School Ambassadors a program that differs from many violence-prevention approaches by mobilizing the 75-85 percent of students who have been passive bystanders to peer mistreatment to prevent, de-escalate and stop bullying violence to 23 middle schools.

Safe School Ambassadors

“The program is effective because it teaches students practical skills to foster harmony on their campuses,” said Robert M. Harris, Ph.D., CEO of the Institute of Advancing Unity. “Empowering young people with the tools to build unity is vital to positive school climate change and translates directly into improved academic performance.”

Designed specifically for grades 4 -12, Safe School Ambassadors is a student centered approach that identifies and selects socially influential “opinion leaders” from the diverse cliques and groups at school. The program then trains them in nonviolent intervention and communication techniques to prevent or stop peer bullying, teasing or mistreatment when they see it.

"As a member driven Joint Powers Authority, we know that through our initial investment we can anticipate 100% return through the reduction of bully and violence related incidences that result in lost dollars to our members." said Dr. Karla Rhay, Chief Administrative Officer, Southern California Schools Risk Management JPA,  "This program is crucial to develop school climate change and assist our members through the tools students will learn that ultimately will lead to healthy and safer learning environment in our community of schools."

School Climate Change

“Improving school climate is both a social and economic imperative,” said Rick Phillips, Executive Director, Community Matters. “We have found that by lowering truancy and suspension rates by just 3% per year, schools can earn up to $19,500 in additional student reimbursements, which adds up to $1,345,500 across the county.”

The initiative is supported in part by Time Warner Cable, a Southern California-based corporation that has been recognized for its investments in youth and education. In addition to advancing math, science, and technology education through its philanthropic initiatives, Time Warner Cable facilitates access to cyber-bulling prevention and Internet safety information through is partnership with Common Sense Media (CSM), the nation’s leading organization dedicated to giving families the trustworthy information they need to thrive in a world of entertainment and technology.

About The Institute for Advancing Unity

The Institute for Advancing Unity promotes policies, programs and opportunities to improve school climates, eliminate prejudice and violence, and institutionalize UNITY as a community value. It provides expertise and facilitates the sharing of research, information and resources among educators, communities, non-profits, and policy makers. The Institute is raising funds to build the UNITY Lab two blocks from the California state capitol. The building is shovel-ready and will be a cutting-edge 32,000 square foot, three-story laboratory for learning and discovery, with a design far ahead of its time. The Lab will facilitate learning, relationship-building and resource exchange through innovative technology and transformational programs. For more information, visit www.championsofunity.org.

About the Southern California Schools Risk Management JPA

Southern California Schools Risk Management (SCSRM), among California's oldest school joint powers authorities (JPA), is a not-for-profit serving public schools by managing risk exposures. SCSRM provides self-funded and owner-controlled insurance programs for general liability, property coverage, workers' compensation benefits and construction & commercial insurance. For more information, visit www.scsjpa.org.

About Community Matters

The Safe School Ambassadors program was established in 2001 by Community Matters, a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization. Since then, Community Matters has trained over 850 schools nationwide. The mission of Community Matters is to promote positive youth development by equipping individuals and organizations with the knowledge and tools to build communities where all children and youth can feel safe, connected, and empowered. For more information visit www.community-matters.org, www.safeschoolambassadors.org.