Field Notes from Pueblo, Colorado by Nathan Gauer

This January we launched an anti-bullying initiative in Pueblo, Colorado under a grant from the Colorado Department of Education.  Pueblo has struggled to survive in the face of enormous job losses, resulting in 90% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.  The town is plagued by high levels of violence, with double the murder rate of Brooklyn, New York. Before we began, I asked one of our partners in the Pueblo City Schools District what she wanted to accomplish during this first wave. She replied without hesitation. ‘We need to give people hope. That’s what this town needs more than anything right now.'” 

We realized going in that we would need to build strong partnerships in order to create change.  We invited the Committee for Children (creators of Second Step) and Facing History and Ourselves to work with us in getting Pueblo students the social and emotional skills they need to succeed at school and in life.  We also reached out to the local government, public health institutions, nonprofits, religious communities and businesses in the community. Collectively known as “Pueblo Future United,” we brought them together for their first meeting in May 2017.

The first collaborative action of Pueblo Future United will be is a community-wide Peace Summit, to be held on October 7th. The goal of the Peace Summit is to create a new tradition of non-violence and people-centered power capable of building a community where all youth feel safe, valued and supported in their efforts to learn. At a school-based Peace Summit at the end of last school year, our Director of Training Kathy Grey saw a young boy dashing energetically between the booths his school had set up for the day. When she stopped to ask him why he was so excited, he beamed, “This is the best day of my life!

During this first year of the Pueblo No Bully Initiative,  No Bully trainers worked in 26 schools, providing training to more than 1,000 staff members. In total, 849 participants completed a post Foundational Training survey, in which they were asked to rate, on a scale of 1–10, the relevance and quality of this training. On average, they rated it over 8 out of 10 in terms of relevance, trainer clarity and whether the trainees would recommend it to a colleague.

In an end-of-year survey administered to school leaders, principals indicated that “Students are very open to reporting bullying behaviors”; that “Students have a different type of awareness…Students are understanding that it’s not ok behavior and there is a better way of treating each other”; and that “Parents have been receptive to our process for addressing bullying.”

While we won’t begin Solution Coach Training until the third year of the grant, we conducted Solution Coaching Training and ran Solution Teams in one school in Pueblo this past school year, Roncalli STEM Academy, which was funded independently from the CDE grant.  The results in Roncalli have been remarkable thus far. According to an independent report analyzing No Bully’s work at this school, “In 94% of the cases, the bullying target experienced an improvement in both the frequency at the check-in that followed the Solution Team process. There were 3-month follow-up check-in data for a majority of the cases 100% of which showed that the improvements had been sustained or further reduced over that time period.”