AKRON, Ohio — October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time when people across the country try to raise awareness and find solutions to this ever-growing issue.
Nearly 20% of students between the ages of 12-18 have experienced some type of bullying, according to a recent federal survey.
To help deal with behavioral problems at schools, Akron Public Schools have implemented 'climate coaches' at several of their elementary schools.
This program is unique to Akron and was developed by Andrew Ziccardi.
Terrence Shelton is a climate coach at Barber Community Learning Center.
“Our role is to make sure . . . the building is a safe, caring, healthy place for everyone who is involved," Shelton said.
One way Shelton does this is by hosting large circle discussions with different groups of students several times each week.
"It’s like a community forum," Shelton said. "Everybody’s voice is heard and valued.”
The circles give the students and staff at the school a chance to tackle difficult topics.
“Some of you have sickness going on, some of you have lost family members that are very close to you, brothers and sisters, things like that and we don’t know, we don’t know, we don't know what people bring to this building,” he told the circle of students.
In light of National Bullying Prevention Month, Shelton brought a group of 6th-grade girls together to candidly discuss the bullying issues going on in their school.
He knows these circle discussions work because he has seen the results of them over the last eight years.
He said the school has seen major improvements in student behavior.
“To really walk through steps, coping steps and strategies to teach them how to manage those emotions and that is hard for adults," he said.
He plans to continue the circle conversations about bullying to help the students work through any issues.