For schools and communities seeking to advance their bullying prevention efforts, the importance of developing cultural competency strategies, skills and programs that are inclusive cannot be overstated.
In fast-growing mountain communities, impoverished rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods alike, BPI grantees have grappled with enormously complex challenges and issues, including:
- Cultural norms that contribute to and reinforce bullying behavior in schools, homes and other settings
- Language barriers that hinder communication and partnership building with parents
Emerging or previously undetected problems within communities traceable to demographic shifts, differences in socioeconomic status, or conflicting beliefs and traditions.
- Following are several examples of efforts on the part of BPI grantees to recognize, value and adapt to the diversity of the children and families they serve.
Lowry Family Center
Lowry Family Center’s programs include after-school groups for children and youth in two predominantly black northeast Denver neighborhoods who are at risk of bullying and other aggressive behavior.
The character-education curriculum that Lowry initially chose was Words Can Heal, which promotes respect, tolerance and awareness that “what we say, and how we say it” matters. But as they moved forward, the Lowry staff grew increasingly concerned that the curriculum was neither culturally relevant nor age-appropriate for the group of teens they were working with.
- The center has taken a number of steps to address this challenge, including:
- Creating its own program, Cool Heads for Cool Youth, that uses some of the same strategies of the Words Can Heal program
- Hiring an African-American male to co-facilitate sessions, and providing additional training for staff
- Augmenting the curriculum with activities such as a presentation and group discussion of the movie “Crash,” and bringing in guest speakers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
African Community Center (ACC)
ACC’s Youth Outreach/Anti-Bullying Project is designed to help the growing number of African refugee youth in northeast Denver schools and neighborhoods avoid and limit bullying behavior.
Refugee youth, according to ACC staff, are often fearful of “mainstream” African-American youth, who are so often portrayed in movies and on television as gang members. At the same time, mainstream black teenagers typically are unaware of the many challenges that refugee youth are facing, and can’t fathom why the newcomers dress differently and don’t seem to understand American culture.
ACC is focusing on several strategies to reduce these conflicts, including (1) teaching refugee youth proper hygiene and day-to-day living skills and (2) sponsoring workshops for mainstream teens at two high schools that serve a large number of African refugee youth.
Back to top
Children’s Health Foundation
The Roaring Fork Valley region of Colorado has experienced an increase in immigrant and Spanish-speaking families. To help students address the different cultural dynamics that exist in schools and communities, the Children’s Health Foundation (CHF) committed to increasing dialogue on the value of diversity and fostering understanding across cultures.
As part of its bullying prevention efforts, CHF has developed intercultural awareness/anti-bias trainings for high school students. It invited an intercultural diversity trainer from Florida, Dee Palazzo of Perspectives Unlimited Inc., to spend two full days with about 25 high school students. The training was focused on identifying the strengths of individual differences, and finding ways in which the students were more similar than initially thought. They were then encouraged to discuss what was happening at their school and what forms of bias and prejudice existed. After the training, the group was charged with creating a follow-up plan and has subsequently decided to have student-led discussions and activities on diversity as part of their homeroom classes.
As the intercultural work has progressed, CHF has invited Palazzo back to train school staff in how to conduct such workshops on their own. This “training of trainers” model will allow teachers to not only have their own personal insights into cultural competency, but also be able to sustain the work with students from year to year.
Back to top