The 2016-2017 school data indicates that Hispanic students received discipline referrals for bullying behavior at a markedly higher rate than other students. Of 102 infractions, 50 involved Hispanic students. Because bullying creates fear and other negative emotions for both the bully and the victim, resulting in reduced learning, this data clearly indicates a need to provide targeted intervention for this group of students. Therefore, a target group was formed by identifying Hispanic students who received discipline infractions related to bullying behaviors during the 2016-2017 school year.
It is critical to help marginalized students with at-risk behaviors form an emotional connection to learning, in order to avoid attendance issues and emotional problems. Students were reluctant to participate in the behavior group at the beginning, as they believed that they were in the group because they are bad students. After the second meeting, students looked forward to subsequent meetings. The importance of this group is reinforced by survey data collected in the middle of the group. The most important outcome is that students observed a positive change in their own behavior and started to make better choices to solve problems. At the beginning of the group, all students believed they could control their behavior and believed they did not need any help. By the end of the group, students were more aware that they were not in control of their behavior and could benefit from help to learn coping skills and management strategies. It is evident that this group served to decrease behavioral issues among Hispanic students and to help them begin to view school as a safe space where they can feel successful.
The Second Step Program coping skills lesson offered students the opportunity to learn positive self-talk and mindfulness and to practice managing their emotions when dealing with difficult situations. This lesson was crucial for HILT/ESOL students since they are new to the country and our school system. The students increased their knowledge about resources and strategies they can use when feeling stressed or emotional. It is evident that progress was made to improve student behavior and to positively influence the ways in which students view their success in school.
The purpose of the Bystanders lesson was to teach students to serve as powerful advocates for students who are being bullied. The lesson aims to teach different strategies students can use when they see someone being bullied. Analysis of the pre/post-survey data indicated an increase related to student knowledge and skill following the lesson. It will be beneficial to continue facilitating this lesson in the future. Role-playing scenarios will be added to allow students to actively practice skills and strategies. Collaboration with the HILT English teachers to reinforce key vocabulary words and concepts from the lesson will be helpful for this specific student population.
Working closely with all stakeholders helps to increase individual awareness of high-need students and fosters a proactive approach with all students. Bullying Prevention Week Activities, like Day of Unity, set a positive tone. Offering individual counseling sessions during after-school detentions has also helped. Some students were impacted by the opportunity to attend the Latino Youth Leadership Conference, where they were able to interact with young, Latino professionals who overcame their own struggles to achieve success. Teachers also received a cultural competence training, so they are better able to serve this population.
Ultimately, the goal to reduce the number of discipline infractions 40% was met. It is clear that there is additional work to be done both inside and outside of the school setting. Since all participants in this group are first generation in the country, there is a need to involve families in this process. Future plans include providing students and their families with increased access to academic and behavioral resources and to involve more school staff in supporting these students. Students now realize how negative behavior impacts school performance; additional work with these students should focus on increasing self-confidence in study habits and fostering self-efficacy in the classroom setting. A school-based mentoring program will be implemented for students who continue to struggle to conceptualize themselves as strong students. Because it was difficult to carve adequate time out of the school day to meet with students, future groups will meet by grade-level. Future groups will be co-facilitated with the school social worker and involve a wider cross-section of the population, expanding to include students who are English Language Learners, low socioeconomic status, first generation students to the country, and students with documented emotional disabilities.