As a young teacher years ago, Cheryl Greene learned how devastating bullying can be. One of her students, who had been treated poorly by his middle-school peers, committed suicide.
“The thing that stuck with me is no adult in the building had a relationship with this kid,” she said. “I was just determined that this was not going to happen again.”
Greene, now a national trainer on bullying prevention, is helping Hamline University launch a Bullying Prevention Certificate for teachers. It will consist of five online courses — on topics ranging from bystander behavior to cyberbullying — and is the first such program in the state, Hamline officials said.
The program comes at a time when both schools and politicians have been grappling with the issue of bullying and its consequences. In 2014, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, requiring all Minnesota schools to develop enforceable bullying prevention policies and train staff on how to recognize and stop it.
The Hamline program aims to help teachers do just that. Greene, who left K-12 teaching to focus on bullying prevention, designed the courses and will also teach them.
“It’s really been a push from Hamline to try to be on the cutting edge of getting this ready to go … as this new law starts to become effective,” Greene said.
The first class is this summer and classes will be added throughout next fall and winter.
Teachers can take just one graduate-level course, or all five for the 10-credit certificate. She said she wants teachers to share their knowledge with colleagues.
“The hope is, after you’ve gone through the certification, you could then be a trainer at your site and do some work districtwide around … bullying,” she said.
While the certificate delves into specific topics surrounding bullying, one broad goal is to show teachers how to recognize bullying.
“So much now is nonverbal, it’s relational aggression, it’s manipulating friendships, things that are really hard to see,” she said.
Carol Mayer, chairwoman of the Continuing Studies department in Hamline’s School of Education, said the bullying prevention coursework is the 17th specialized certificate the university offers for teachers. Others cover autism spectrum disorders and gifted education.
“Teaching is dynamic,” she said. “So anyone working in professional development has to move with those emerging needs.”
Jake Ross, a Forest Lake seventh-grader who was bullied and now represents students on Minnesota’s Safe School Technical Assistance Council, said Hamline’s certificate sounds promising.
“Teachers can definitely be helpful in a situation of bullying,” he said. “All that’s really needed is for one person to assist the person who is being bullied and help solve the problem.”