Taking Action to Combat Bullying

As tension and anger dominate today’s top headlines, teachers and administrators across the country seek to educate students in a positive manner. This month, they will do so as part of National Bullying Prevention Month.  

The movement was first started in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Center. The program now exists in schools around the world.

This week, TMT spoke to Our Lady of Malibu School officials to understand what sorts of resources are available to kids in the community. 


The school introduced a new program—Whole School, Whole Child—in partnership with local nonprofit Roots & Wings Institute for Personal Growth and Family Excellence. Roots & Wings staff members work with teachers to implement research-based lessons from learning models such as positive discipline, positive psychology and mindfulness in day-to-day class time.

“It’s not just like teaching soccer,” Dr. Jennifer Johnston-Jones, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director, said in a phone call with The Malibu Times.

OLM teachers went through 17 hours of training prior to the first day of school and learned 12 different tools.

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Johnston-Jones explained one of those tools is “praise versus encouragement.”

“We want to encourage rather than praise. The difference [is, with] praise, you would say, ‘You’re such a good boy, oh wow, you’re such a good artist, look at that pretty picture you drew.’ … It makes kids feel like they have to be perfect.”

This idea of perfection, made popular in the ’70s and ’80s, she said was detrimental.

“So, instead of saying ‘You’re such a good boy,’ you could say, ‘Wow, I really like how kind you were when you shook Mr. Smith’s hand.’ When you talk to kids that way, it helps them feel OK with making mistakes.”

The program is mainly subsidized by the nonprofit. Currently, five specialists from Roots & Wings work with the various grade levels.

OLM Principal Michael Smith described how lessons work.

“They come in and spend one to two full days in the classroom and help facilitate the different sessions that the kids are having with their teachers,” Smith said. 

By having specialists in class, Smith hopes to give any issues that may arise an immediate response.

“So, if an issue came up where one child wasn’t treating another child very nicely, it can be the topic of the classroom meeting,” he said.

And it’s not just for the kids—positive discipline parent educator Estela de Wulf holds a workshop on Tuesdays from 8:30-10 a.m. for parents to join following student drop-off. 

The parents learn to implement positive discipline at home, and create—in Smith’s words—“a much more well-developed, well-disciplined move toward growth, academics and socialization.”

Johnston-Jones also emphasized that bullying is not a natural part of childhood.

“That’s a myth and it’s very dangerous. Bullying happens when kids are not getting a need met,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a bad kid.”

“This attitude that people have, that no tolerance… Well, no, that person [the bully] needs to heal,” Johnston-Jones later added. “We need to protect the kids.”

This is the first installment in a series following programs that Malibu schools offer to their students. Next week, TMT focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu’s Wellness Center.

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