February 02, 2015

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Lancaster schools inspire people to practice kindness, pass it onto others

John Sciole Elementary School students took part in ‘A Day of Kindness,’ Tuesday by decorating medication bags for Hospice patients. The event took place throughout the whole entire district, as well as encouraged community members to get involved.

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | February 12, 2014

LANCASTER- Kindness is a way of showing others that they count and that even in the face of hostility and selfishness, there are no random acts of kindness too small or big that can make a difference.

Part of the Lancaster Central School District’s Bullyproof Partnership, a partnership formed in 2011, all seven schools Tuesday participated in “A Day of Kindness,” which align perfectly with the week-long international movement, held through The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, to spread kindness.

“It is pure serendipity that our plans fall right in the middle of this international movement to spread kindness throughout the world,” remarked Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Pupil Services, Marie Perini, Ed. D. “Our group was merely intending to spread kindness throughout our own schools and community. It was our objective, in planning the Day of Kindness, to carry the message of our Bullyproof Partnership from the Lancaster schools to the larger community and gain the community’s involvement in our efforts to create a kinder environment in our schools and in our community.”

In order to do so, a banner in the Village of Lancaster’s Central Business District and marquis sign near the village’s water tower were put up to announce the event to the larger community.

“Bullying is an issue that impacts all levels of society, and we are encouraging parents, businesses, and concerned individuals to get involved in our Bullyproof Partnership,” said Lancaster Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Vallely.

Parents, students, staff, and community members were asked to use the district’s Facebook page and Twitter pages to report their random acts of kindness. Everyone was asked to use the hash tags #RAKweek to connect to the foundation and #bullyproofpartnership so that Lancaster schools could track their efforts to effect change.

Activities planned in each school focused on encouraging positive interactions while reducing negative behaviors. Plans for all seven schools included a broad range of activities such as food drives, signing pledges and posters, recording good deeds or kind messages on construction paper strips, which will be used to create a school wide paper chain, creating placements for Meals on Wheels, making Valentine’s Day cards for St. Elizabeth Nursing Home residents and local veterans, a spare change drive for Roswell Park’s Bald for Bucks and Locks of Love, creating a building-wide “Quilt of Kindness,” and much more.

In many buildings the character word of the month is “Kindness,” and so the observance will carry on for more than just one day.

John Sciole Elementary School students, as well as the other elementary schools in the district, began the morning with a Peace Bus meeting.

Vallely said one of the most successful components of the Bullyproof Partnership has been the launch of Peace Bus, which this year was brought to all of the K-3 elementary schools and is meeting with positive reviews from students, faculty, and bus drivers.

John Sciole Elementary School Principal Carrie Greene said the Peace Bus program is based on the program called “The Peaceful Bus.” It was started at Como Park Elementary School last year.

“It is a program where the students, three to four times a year, meet as a bus community with their bus driver,” explained Greene. “A member of our Bullyproof Partnership Team facilitates each meeting and they get to know the driver a little better, work with each other as a team, so that we have less bus problems and the kids get along better.”

At the last Peace Bus meeting, students were encouraged to come up with goals such as “using their inside voices on the bus,” “staying in their seats,” and to “sit with a different fellow student on the bus.” It was on Tuesday that students and the Bullyproof Partnership Team, which consists of teachers, went back to these goals to talk about how they are doing, as well as create some new goals.

“We want to make it an enjoyable ride to school and home,” remarked Greene. “To make it more enjoyable they [students] need to know each other better and know the driver better.”

And for their “Kindness” project students decorated brown paper bags used to distribute medication to Hospice patients. Greene said all 365 students decorated a bag and some may even decorate more than one.

“Over the last few years you heard a lot about anti-bullying and it becomes a lot of talk about bullying, and it becomes a lot of negative talk,” said Greene. “We really wanted to focus on the positives and the kind things you can do that are happening everyday here. These kids are amazing and they are really great with each other. So, the focus is just really on the positives. By being kind to each other, of course we hope to see less bullying, but we just wanted a more positive focus.”

Since the implementation of the first Peace Bus meeting in November, Greene commented she has only had one bus referral.

“Before our Peace Bus meetings, I had quite a few,” said Greene, who took the position of principal last July. “So, if I just look at that data the bus referrals are down so the behavior on the bus has improved. I have seen a change since I have been here.”

The Day of Kindness culminated with a parent-community event by Dr. Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo. Dr. Nickerson, an associate professor in the counseling, school, and educational psychology department, focuses her research on preventing and intervening with school crises, violence, and bullying. The program focused on helping children to manage their social world and helping parents to discern the difference between drama, conflict, and bullying.

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