HIGHLAND - While the acronym DASA may be new lingo in the educational setting, its goal of creating an environment that fosters dignity for all students is not new at Highland Elementary School (HES).
DASA represents the State’s formalized efforts to create a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus, and/or at a school function. Called the Dignity for All Students Act, DASA was developed to address rising concerns and negative outcomes associated with bullying. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nationwide, 20% of students in Grades 9–12 experienced bullying. The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) also indicates that, nationwide, 28% of students in Grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
Just one of the many efforts already in place supporting the principles of DASA is an annual third grade assembly by Bully Busters, held each October and sponsored by the Highland Elementary School PTA.
The memorable catchphrase of "Don’t mess with me! I’m bully free!" echoed throughout the cafetorium as the Puppet People, a touring company from Schenectady, New York engaged students with their positive anti-bullying message using a colorful, imaginative presentation full of costumed performers.
"The Bully Buster Performance emphasizes the importance of treating others with respect and kindness. It reinforces our PBIS [Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports] culture and addresses support for the Dignity for All Students Act," says Assistant Principal Roseann LaManna.
The PBIS initiative Ms. LaManna mentions is a nationally recognized program that creates a school environment where appropriate behaviors and expectations are defined and rewarded, generating positive attention for students who "do the right thing."
"Since October is anti-bullying month, this program was a fitting way to consolidate the Dignity Act with our elementary PBIS climate in ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all," adds Mrs. LaManna.
The high-energy performance combines character education with the fun of a theatrical production. The age-appropriate puppet show demonstrates a variety of bullying behaviors and models positive reactions that students can use in response. The show helps this important message reach children at an impressionable stage in their young lives.
The Puppet People, consisting of Mark Carrigan and his wife Michelle, have been performing the Bully Busters presentation for more than ten years. "Having both been bullied as children, we know what it’s like," says Mark. "And with the epidemic of bullying which goes on in school, on the bus, on the Internet, and in other places, we feel this is a great way to get our anti-bullying message out to these young people at a formative age. And they get it. They really get it."