A bully is not always the biggest or meanest kid on the playground. A bully comes in all shapes and sizes.

Students at Glen Rose Intermediate School have spent a majority of the fall semester learning to identify and report true bullying incidents to their teachers and counselors.

“It was a 10-week process we went through,” GRIS counselor Karla Swearengin said. “Some of the positive things we saw was that we have a common vocabulary with kids now because they have all been given the same (information).”

According to the Steps to Respect Program Guide, bullying is “a serious problem for school-age children and one for which they receive limited adult help.”

“There are clear, harmful bullying effects on the development of large numbers of children,” the guide states. “Not only is emotional adjustment affected, but bullying also has a devastating effect on children’s ability to focus on academics at school.”

The Steps to Respect program implements bully knowledge through the education and awareness of teachers and students alike.

“The program’s dual focus on bullying and friendship is based on research showing that friendship protects children from the harmful effects of bullying,” the guide states. “Students learn a variety of relationship skills, including strategies for making and keeping friends and steps for joining a group activity.”

Swearengin said the three R’s - recognize, refuse and report - have been implemented by teachers and students.

“If they are a witness to a bullying or a victim of a bullying they know what to do,” Swearengin said. “We are all on the exact same page now. There is less confusion and more of a common (understanding) around all of the teachers and students on how to handle bullying.”

Vice Principal Teri Teaff, who presented the program with Swearengin, said there has been a decrease in behavioral referrals of students since implementing the program.

“They are doing very well with following through,” Teaff said. “Our students are using the language.”

Not only are students using the language, they are understanding it and putting it into action.

If an individual is bullied but feels safe, they are encouraged to refuse the situation right there, Teaff said. There are still times that warrant a report, including those from bystanders.

“You can still be a friend and report that situation as well,” Teaff said. “We are taking every report as a serious situation.”

Teaff and Swearengin are planning to follow up with the program throughout the year and implement it for incoming third graders during the 2010-11 school year.