The Bush Foundation has awarded the Anoka-Hennepin school district a $200,000 grant to help boost its bullying prevention efforts.

Just a few years ago, the state's largest school district was rocked by a string of suicides, some of which were connected to bullying. Since then, the district has implemented several new efforts aimed at bullying prevention and has become a go-to source for other schools looking to ramp up their own efforts.

The two-year grant from the Bush Foundation will be used to expand a program developed a few years ago at Blaine High School called the "Bengal Bystander" program. The program essentially trains students to identify, prevent and curtail bullying.

“Blaine started by training their National Honor Society students to be leaders. This year they will expand that to their Link Crew leaders,” said Jennifer Cherry, Title IX coordinator for the district who teamed up with Tess DeGeest, executive director of the Anoka Hennepin Educational Foundation, to write the grant proposal.

Over the next year, staff from each of the secondary schools will receive bystander empowerment training and develop plans to implement programs in their own schools the next year.

Also, the grant will be used to fund the district's continuing work with two professional facilitators who work with the district's anti-bullying/anti-harassment task force comprised of students, staffers, parents and community members.

“This is a huge win for all of us,” said DeGeest. “The project that was funded really builds on the great foundational work done by the community task force, and great work by staff and students."

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