Shaker schools implement HPC anti-bullying curriculum

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Press Release

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Karen Baer, CEO

June 9, 2016

SHAKER HEIGHTS –The Shaker Heights City School District will provide all of its preschool students in the 2016-17 school year with a new social-emotional curriculum designed to prevent bullying by helping young children learn to express their anger appropriately.

Mrs. Wilson's class 002Created by Shaker Heights-based Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development and Child Psychoanalyst Victoria Todd, the curriculum is called “Helping Children Express Their Mad Feelings.” It addresses a state requirement for public schools to provide a bullying prevention program by the time children complete 3rd grade. It’s being made available in the Shaker Heights Schools through a grant from the Abington Foundation.

The program is based on a body of research that places the origins of bullying in early childhood. Referred to in the classroom as “My Mad Feelings,” it teaches young children about the connection between their feelings and their behavior, and helps them learn to express feelings verbally rather than by acting out.

Shaker school logoIt will be taught in half-hour increments over nine to 12 weeks, with half the classes participating in the fall, and the other half beginning in January. It involves small-group classroom discussion led by Hanna Perkins child-development specialists; voluntary discussions for parents; training and consultation with teachers; and take-home activities for children to complete and discuss with their parents/guardians.

“Bullying should never be accepted as something that just happens to children as part of growing up,” said Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., Superintendent of the Shaker Heights City School District. “No child should feel unwelcomed, uncomfortable or threatened, especially at school. We are proud to partner with  Hanna Perkins to give children and parents the resources they need to stop bullying before it gets started.”

“Research tells us the seeds of bullying are sown in a child’s first social experiences,” said Hanna Perkins CEO Karen Baer. “Preschool is the developmentally appropriate time for children to begin learning how to speak up for themselves and resolve conflicts in a way that is also kind to others. When children have those skills, they tend not to become bullies and they tend not to become victims of bullies.”

Parents of incoming students will learn about “My Mad Feelings” in a preschool orientation, to be held before the beginning of the school year. At that time, parents will be surveyed for topics they want to discuss in open forums with the Hanna Perkins child-development specialists. Example topics include developing positive discipline, getting along with friends, developing a lifelong love of learning, troubles sleeping and eating, and parenting and technology.

The teacher component of the program provides consultation and 20 hours of Ohio-approved training that meets professional development standards of the state’s Step Up to Quality early education initiative.

The curriculum supports development of self-esteem, self-advocacy and empathy in students. It’s designed to prevent bullying before it begins, but it has power to do much more, according to Victoria Todd, who developed the curriculum and will help implement it in the Shaker Heights schools.

“When children are able to manage their feelings successfully, they can become more tolerant of others, develop stronger relationships and enjoy the risks involved in learning new things and having new experiences,” she said. “All of this leads them to be viewed more positively by the adults who work with them in school and other activities.”

Hanna Perkins operates a preschool and kindergarten in Shaker Heights, and “My Mad Feelings” is an outgrowth of its focus on emotional development. The curriculum has been tested and refined in other early learning centers with diverse clientele, but Shaker Heights is the first public school district to implement the program on a widespread basis.

About Hanna Perkins

Founded in 1951, The Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development promotes healthy emotional development in children by providing services to families, professionals and organizations.

Hanna Perkins is located in the historic renovation of the former Malvern School in Shaker Heights. Services include:

  • Hanna Perkins School: Preschool, state-chartered kindergarten and parent/toddler classes, all focused on emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage feelings – which is regarded as a building block for other success skills.
  • Parenting resources: Classes and consultation on child development and behavior.
  • Hadden Clinic for Children & Families: Assessment, treatment and developmental guidance for children and adolescents.
  • Education for professionals: State-approved training for teachers, child care providers, social workers and others who regularly work with children.
  • Training for organizations and agencies: Customized staff training for early learning centers and other organization.
  • Child and adolescent psychoanalytic training: An intensive program that prepares professionals to provide psychoanalytic therapy to children and adolescents, and to work closely with children’s parents.