Salem middle school first in country to try new anti-bullying campaign

Salem middle school first in country to try new anti-bullying campaign »Play Video

SALEM, Ore. -- Inside the crowded hallways of Leslie Middle School, bullying exists -- in a new way.

Like most schools, social media has transformed how students are bullied and how school administrators can respond. One comment or post, spread at the speed of teenager texting, can have disastrous results.

That’s why this middle school decided to stay ahead of the issue and became the first school in the United States to use a program called “Zero,” as in zero tolerance. The program is offered by the local company, Columbia Educational Designs.

Modeled after similar programs in Norway that have seen success, Zero tailors its anti-bullying strategies to each school and to each student.

Leslie Middle School kicked off the campaign at an assembly Tuesday.

The program began in Norway after passage of a law that guaranteed a threat-free education for all students following a number of bullying tragedies.

“Starting with the head of the government on down into the school districts, they’ve actually impressed upon their universities the need to develop programs specifically addressed at working with these kinds of situations,” said Pete Teller, the school’s counselor.

The unique aspect of “Zero” is that it can be customized. At Leslie, students called ‘peer helpers’ wear purple T-shirts and can be called upon to offer support to other students.

“I feel like it’s more helpful for students to be talking to students about situations – like helping them out – ‘cause they’ll really take it in,” said student peer helper Emani Price.

KATU is reporting on a series of stories on Wednesday centered on the International Stand Up Bullying Day. We’ll have special coverage on all of our shows.