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Schools stage Respect kick-off

ARLINGTON — The Arlington School District conducted a two-pronged effort to help parents and students alike adjust to the school environment.

The ASD’s annual Respect kick-off took place Sept. 23, and its first Parent Education Night was held Sept. 25.

The Parent Education Night, which ASD Respect Program Coordinator Sarah Cofer hopes will become an annual event, attracted 48 parents to Haller Middle School, to attend three hours of instruction sessions, in subjects ranging from early literacy to supportive processes.

“Before, the closest you could find classes like this was in Everett,” said Cofer, who noted that free on-site childcare was provided for parents who attended the event.

Cofer was inspired by a Seattle child development workshop this past spring and found instructors for this event, both locally and beyond, through contacts such as area preschools.

“There was a real buzz around this event,” Cofer said. “Everyone saw a big need for this, which was why so many people were willing to volunteer their time.”

Cofer received feedback from the “Parenting With Compassion” event saying that “Love and Logic” for preschoolers and “True Colors” were considered the most beneficial classes by parents. Parents also requested that future sessions focus on kids fighting, increasing children’s ability to pay attention, pre-teen issues, drug awareness, discipline, and cross-cultural parenting.

As for the Respect kick-off, Cofer described it as “a total work session” for the student Respect teams.

“The main goal for them is to plan issues for the upcoming school year based on data from surveys of students,” Cofer said. “They’ll use that data to drive their events, and since we now have two years of survey data, we can measure our progress.”

Among the year-to-year findings Cofer cited were an increase in students who report enjoying school from 80 percent to 89 percent, and an increase in students who report feeling safe at school, from 90 percent to 98 percent. The increase in students who say they will tell someone, if they see someone else being picked on, took a more dramatic leap, from 56 percent to 74 percent.

Among the areas certain schools’ Respect teams have chosen to target this year are bullying on the school bus, reported by 13 percent of students, and name-calling, which accounts for 54 percent of all reported bullying. Respect teams plan to combat these through peer education, on bus rules and importance of safety, and teaching students about civil language and the importance of not being passive bystanders.

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