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Garmisch signs anti-bullying policy, leads pilot program for U.S. Army

Garmisch Elementary-Middle School
Dressed in their Bavarian dirndls and lederhosen, students at Garmisch Elementary-Middle School join together for an anti-bullying campaign.

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Oct. 18, 2011 -- Principal Debbie Parks and Deputy Garrison Manager Jeff Darrow signed an anti-bullying policy Tuesday before the student body of Garmisch Elementary-Middle School.

Garmisch Elementary-Middle School was the site of a pilot program for an IMCOM-Europe anti-bullying program in coordination with Department of Defense Education Activity schools. The White House held a conference on preventing bullying in March to spread the message that everyone plays a role in bullying: the bullies, the bullied, and the bystanders and adults who can stop it.

"We've been working for about 10 months on this policy by having training, meetings, and working with the community to come together for a policy that works for all of us here," said Parks.

After a quick, neat piano act by Zachary, Julia, and Nicholas Baines playing the same keyboard simultaneously with their hands crossed, the policy signing was opened by Judi Patrick, U.S. Army Europe School Liaison Officer.

"We're excited to announce the kickoff of our year-long bullying prevention pilot during this time as October is the National Bullying Prevention Month," said Patrick. "We have only to look at the headlines today in the media to understand the tragic stories of children who have committed suicide after being bullied."

Patrick said that Parks and her teachers had worked hard to initiate the program. When school counselor Esther Hardy took the stage to ask the students questions about what they'd already learned about bullying, dozens of hands shot up

"Respect!" shouted several enthusiastically.

Nickelodeon supported the anti-bullying campaign with information for kids about how to handle cyberbullying, said Patrick.

"According to recent data, half of the young people ages 14-24 said they've been a victim of cyberbullying," said Patrick.

After the ceremony, Parks spoke candidly about the bullying she dealt with herself when she was a girl.

"My middle school years were very difficult for me because I was an ugly, skinny, braces, acne child and I was made fun of a lot," said Parks. "It was a really difficult time and I have empathy for what kids are going through and how to make a better world for them, and not let them experience what I had to experience."

In the current issue of the DoDEA newsletter, Acting Director Marilee Fitzgerald stressed the importance of the program.

"Our teachers, counselors, and administrators are eager to work with you and your children to make all schools bully-free zones," said Fitzgerald. "Together, we can build a strong community and pave the path for a safe, secure, and sound community for all of our students."

This pilot was a true indication of the partnership between the Army and DoDDS in Europe, said Patrick.

"This pilot was a true indication of the partnership between the Army and DoDDS in Europe. Together with our garrisons and DoDEA, we can provide every child and youth with the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe and nurturing environment both in and out of school," said Patrick. "I am excited about implementing this program in all of our Army garrisons in Europe during this school year."