students on the Buddy Bench

October is Anti-Bullying Month

Respecting and Supporting our students

"Anti-Bullying Month is an opportunity to create more awareness around the resources we provide students and families," says Assistant Director of Student Services and Bullying Investigation Coordinator, Elizabeth Doncaster. Somerville Public Schools staff work hard to make sure all students feel welcome in the school community. Students should have positive experiences with their peers and trusted adults they can go to among the staff and administration when a challenging situation arises.

Student Services takes a district-wide approach to bullying prevention. It has paid off; bullying is on the decline in the district. The Student Services team trains every staff member, from lunchroom staff to principals, on how to identify bullying, how to de-escalate aggressive student behavior, and how to report it. According to Director of Student Services, Rich Melillo, "It is critical to provide quality training to both our staff and students as we continue to provide appropriate prevention and intervention strategies." 

Trained mediators are assigned to K-8 schools and Somerville High School to address any situations that might arise. Mediation is used to support the victim and also provide a more comprehensive solution by working with the aggressor. By providing the aggressor resources, staff can uncover the underlying reason a student chooses aggressive behavior and teach him or her to change their behavior moving forward.

The Somerville Public Schools district has a robust and diverse approach to student and classroom wellness. Prekindergarten through eighth grade students learn the Second Step curriculum to promote socio-emotional skills development to learn peaceful conflict resolution skills and the vocabulary for understanding and expressing emotions. The Health and Physical Education department introduced yoga at Somerville High School, and mindfulness is part of students' required Health Education classes. The Winter Hill Community Innovation School and West Somerville Neighborhood School have successfully adopted the Responsive Classroom curriculum, with students using fun communication games to check in each day with their fellow classmates and teachers. The Kennedy School staff developed an innovative mindfulness program for its students that includes mindful eating and walking, among other activities. Read more about the Kennedy pilot in a blog post that follows a group of mindful kindergarteners.

Sometimes students need a little extra support from their peers or need to report something they have seen or heard. The Healey School has a special Buddy Bench for students who are feeling left out or lonely at recess. Students know that if someone sits on the Buddy Bench, it’s an invitation to walk over and help out a classmate by including them in a game or conversation. Somerville Public Schools has an Anti-Bullying Hotline, 617-629-5222. Any student who witnesses or experiences aggressive behavior can report it privately and know that it will be taken seriously by administrators and staff. Students can also make a report online at the Student Services Anti-Bullying webpage. The Student Services staff also presents an annual workshop to parents and guardians of middle graders about student online behavior and safety. In the words of Assistant Director Doncaster, "We put systems in place to support the well-being and safety of every student in Somerville Public Schools."

Kindergarten students



Visit the SPS Student Services Anti-Bullying Webpage for a list of informative websites to explore. Assistant Director of Student Services, Elizabeth Doncaster, is the district Bullying Investigation Coordinator. She can be reached at 617-625-6600 x6852.

Somerville Public School's Private Anti-Bullying Hotlines:

  • English: 617-629-5222
  • Spanish: 617-629-5224
  • Portuguese: 617-629-5226
  • Haitian Creole: 617-629-5228

To underscore anti-bullying month’s message, several national organizations have wonderful suggestions for supporting safe and caring environments.

Ever wonder who gets bullied? Check out this Megan Kelley Hall anti-bullying video. Hint: you probably know a lot of these public figures!

The Stomp Out Bullying website has a weekly calendar for participating, like a #NoOneEatsAlone approach to eating in the school cafeterias. 

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has information for elementary and middle grades and high school students and parents, including a How You Can Help section for elementary students. has resources for parents, teachers, and students.

Anti-bullying tips for kids with, "Five Ways to Stop Bullying!"

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