The district started focusing on bullying when a report highlighted widespread harassment of Latino students by African Americans in September. Monday LRSD principals received their first training book for their new "Bully-Proofing" program, centered on teaching tolerance for everyone.
Katrina Crisp, Youth Program Coordinator for the Center for Artistic Revolution, says she hopes the program will have a positive impact on students in her youth group. She moved to Arkansas from California six years ago to help LGBTQ youth.
"I had an amazing experience coming out and growing up and going to school and never being bullied for being gay," Crisp said.
She's hoping to help students here have the same experience by holding group sessions at the youth drop-in center. Students can drop in and share about their day and take advantage of educational opportunities.
"We have had several students almost every week say 'so and so said something to me in class and my teacher laughed at it, contributed to the joke or didn't do anything at all,"' Crisp said, recounting how some students explain negative school experiences.
The Little Rock School District is teaching administrators how to crack down on that type of behavior.
"Little Rock School District board, teachers and staff will not tolerate bullying of any kind of any sorts," said Dr. Sadie Mitchell, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools for LRSD.
Monday, program coordinators introduced Bully-Proofing, a program full of worksheets on how to identify bullies,practice scenarios and defense tactics such as, "Ha, Ha, So What", teaching students how to help another, avoid and even laugh their way out of a bully's bulls eye.
"There is absolutely a correlation between safety and security and being successful in school," said Central High School Superintendent Nancy Rousseau.
Crisp pointed to studies showing LGBTQ students are more likely to have lower grades and skip school due to harassment. She says she hopes this program extends their safe space beyond the walls of the drop-in center.
"Bullying is a real issue, it's hurting and even killing our kids," she said.
The district plans to introduce the program to students Friday and present a budget detailing exactly how much the anti-bullying curriculum will cost the district, next week.
The Bully-Proofing program is currently used across the United States and Canada. Dr. Mitchell says 5 to 10 minute lessons will be integrated into classes for K-12 students, once to twice lessons a week.
To learn more about resources available for students and their parents at the Center for Artistic Revolution, click here.