Catholic Schools Are ‘Bully Proofing’ Students This Year

By Colleen Rowan

WEST VIRGINIA—With the start of a new school year, Catholic schools are “Bully-Proofing Youth.” The program, presented by therapist Jim Bisenius, helps equip students of various ages with tools and techniques on dealing with potentially being the target of a bully, said Robyn Hammond, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese.

“By virtue of their mission, Catholic schools are called to be educational communities within faith communities in which all students are treated with dignity and respect by administrators, teachers and especially by one another,” Hammond said. “The anti-bullying programs being held in various schools give students, teachers and parents tools to help foster this sense of Christian community, particularly by providing strategies to minimize and, ideally, eliminate bullying behavior. We all know that students learn best when their educational environment is nurturing, safe, supportive and encouraging, giving each student the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”

“The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston searches for opportunities to help the local Catholic schools with various student concerns that affect their ability to have students meet the highest levels of achievement,” said Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese. “Bullying can interfere with student achievement. The diocese thought it was critical to be proactive in our education of parents, faculty and students to the effects of bullying and how to counteract this in our schools.”

According to Bisenius’ website, Bully-Proofing Youth is a bullying prevention program designed for children in grades one through 12. It teaches students what kids who target look for in those they pick on and how to stop giving those reactions. Through assemblies, workshops and group trainings, Bisenius instructs students, teachers and parents in ways to eliminate bullying behavior.

Bisenius recently presented workshops for faculty at Madonna High School and St. Joseph the Worker and St. Paul grade schools in Weirton and another workshop for faculty of Central Catholic High School and St. Michael, Corpus Christi and St. Vincent de Paul schools in Wheeling; Bishop Donahue High School in McMechen and SS. James and John School in Benwood.

In October, he will return to present student workshops for the above mentioned schools in Wheeling and Weirton. Hammond said that he will present three programs for different age groups, for parents and high school students.

Bisenius presented program for students, parents and faculty of Parkersburg Catholic Elementary School and Parkersburg Catholic High School Aug. 26. He spoke to students at the elementary and then at the high school and then came back to speak to the faculty of both schools and parents.

“One girl came up and hugged me and said, ‘thanks Mrs. Robinson for having him in,’” said PCHS Principal Karen Robinson. “That was powerful to me.”

“He taught them (the students) ways to deal with bullies,” she said. “He gave them specific examples on how to deal with bullying behavior, and I think those are important tools for the kids to have.”