A 1st for Osceola County: Anti-bullying campaign comes to elementary schools

Osceola sheriff aims to prevent school violence by preventing hardened bullies

Students in hallway. (WDIV)

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – As Osceola County heads back-to-school, for the first time ever, the youngest students will be getting life lessons on how to deal with bullying directly from deputies.

Sheriff Marcos Lopez said elementary schools have never before gotten intensive classroom anti-bullying instruction.

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He believes down the road it will help prevent school violence, including mass shootings.

Lopez invited News 6 to a practice session with a school resource officer who spoke to elementary schoolers about bullying.

The children knew the obvious answers to the easy questions but Lopez fears they don’t really understand how bad bullying really is and the devastating consequences it can cause as the children get older.

“You know, when I first took office, a lot of parents were concerned with bullying in schools (and) the increase in active shooters, who a lot of times will say they were bullied and cyberbullied,” Lopez said. “We need to stop that behavior.”

Lopez said he noticed the anti-bullying talk in middle and high schools wasn’t getting results.

“We’re still seeing a lot of bullying,” Lopez said. “So we decided to create the program and tighten it up and introduce it to the lower level kids, engage with them and let them know they’re strong. To make them fully understand how they can correct that bad behavior before they can get to high school.”

Lopez said this is the first time the sheriff’s office has ever brought these life lessons into Osceola County elementary schools. SROs will regularly spend at least an hour with all elementary school students answering questions and role-playing scenarios about bullying.

“So maybe if we target them a little bit earlier and make sure they’re understanding at an earlier age before they get into that, understanding the relationship, the real reasoning behind what’s wrong and what’s right, I think it’ll help deter this once they get a little older,” Lopez said.

SROs have been practicing the anti-bullying course at a few of the elementary schools before the last school year ended. The course goes live at all 30 Osceola County elementary schools next week.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback right now and with the little bit that we’ve done, we’re going to continue to push this really hard and make sure we get a lot of positive results,” Lopez said.  “You know there’s no perfect system to help prevent anything. All we can do is try and try new things and experiment.”

Every elementary schoolers who sit through the anti-bullying course will get a certificate of completion that “makes it more solid that they achieved something,” according to the sheriff.

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Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.