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Hudson Valley Press

June 25th, 2014

Highland Elementary School Combats Bullying

Students Zach Angelone and Alexis Santos volunteer to demonstrate the anti-bullying techniques the Morris Brothers taught during their assembly.

HIGHLAND - A powerful anti-bullying message was brought to Highland Elementary School (HES) on June 3, when the highly entertaining and nationally renowned Morris Brothers took the stage in the cafetorium dressed as NERDS (Never Ending Radical Dudes). Reading teacher Dana McGrath introduced the plaid pants-wearing duo to the Grade 2-5 students during a series of educational assemblies that began with a short story depicting the creation of social superheroes after an explosion in an underground tree house laboratory. Although the stage was set for fun, the seriousness of bullying in schools was delivered strongly in the message from the entertainers: "Keep HES Bully Free."

Wearing their taped glasses and pocket protectors, Brothers Rupert and Homer Morris shared many useful messages, including respect yourself and others; to have a friend you have to be a friend; and that absolutely no one deserves to be bullied. The brothers helped children understand that bullying includes teasing someone, taking things from someone, hurting someone, and leaving people out. Bullying happens everywhere, and anyone can be bullied. They encouraged children to report bullying to help stop trouble.

"It was fun and funny to watch, but I also learned that I want to keep my school bully-free," said Elainah Towsley, a third grade student. "My favorite part was when they showed us how to ignore the bully by just saying, ‘Okay’ or saying knock knock jokes and leaving." She also enjoyed seeing her peers invited onto the stage to act out various anti-bully techniques.

The Morris Brothers educational workshops are created to teach "it’s not what you look like, but how you feel about yourself that’s important." They want kids to be "confident in themselves and their abilities, to stand up for their beliefs, and strive for high ideals by teaching about self-esteem, peer pressure, character traits, bullying, drug prevention, friendship, and more."

The program was brought to the school through the efforts of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program committee. PBIS is a successful, nationally recognized program that defines expectations and reinforces appropriate behavior in schools through recognition and rewards, essentially shifting the focus away from the negative. PBIS is implemented district-wide at Highland, yielding impressive results in reducing behavior incidents. Highland Elementary School is among the oldest schools in the country participating in the PBIS program. Current Highland High School students were introduced to the tenets of PBIS while at HES, and the principles, practices, and language are now woven into everyday school life for students.

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