Kindness efforts continue into summer

Encouraging positive behavior among not only the students of Fort Dodge schools but also in the community has been a priority for the Fort Dodge Community School District, even during summer vacation.

Working with programs such as Character Counts, We’re Up on Fort Dodge and It Gets Better Fort Dodge, the FDCSD has advocated for kindness, courtesy and respect not only among students, but the greater community, according to Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent.

“Having been here three years, during that time I’ve heard many comments about how our students don’t treat each other the way they should treat each other, they don’t treat staff members they way they should. Going into stores in the community, you see those same types of behaviors taking place not only by students but by adults,” Van Zyl said. “As a group, we got together and talked about what we could do that would be a positive influence for both our kids and the community.”

In 2013, the district introduced the anti-bullying program Rachel’s Challenge. The program is inspired by Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting in Columbine, Colo., in April 1999. Scott, in her diaries, wrote extensively about inclusion and starting a “chain reaction” of kindness.

In the classroom, teachers use Positive Behavior Intervention Supports to encourage and reward good behavior.

“It’s been a stronger push over the last few years,” Van Zyl said. “Some schools had incorporated it, but about two years ago all of our elementary schools decided that was going to be the program and the ideas they would really like to have implemented districtwide. The middle schools have incorporated it as well, and the high school has something similar.”

PBIS teaches students how to behave in the hall, in a classroom, in the cafeteria, on the bus and toward each other and their teachers.

“Now we have something that is districtwide that develops that common language and understanding of what we expect from our kids when they’re in school, how they should treat each other,” Van Zyl said. “It’s really trying to instill those positive behaviors in them, because not all of us have good role models and examples for what those positive behaviors could be and what they should look like.”

Van Zyl said he hopes to see these behaviors embraced by the community.

“There’s a lot of positive things taking place in Fort Dodge. The growth that’s taking place, the businesses that come in and decide whether or not they’re going to settle here. They bring families and young people with them,” he said. “They’re looking for that community and that environment that embraces those positive things.”