Sioux City's Public High Schools Welcome Anti-Bullying Campaign

High school leaders from across Sioux City didn't go to school this morning. Instead, they went to Western Iowa Tech for a summit on bullying.

It's the "Mentors in Violence Prevention" program, run by the University of Northern Iowa.

Two hundred sophomores and juniors came from all three of Sioux City's public high schools, determined to stop bullying and dating abuse. The biggest lesson: knowing how to be an "active bystander."

Alan Heisterkamp with the MVP Leadership Institute of the University of Northern Iowa said "If they were to be confronted by or hear words, derogatory language, inappropriate conduct-behavior it's like, what can they do as a bystander, as a student in their school, to make it safer and healthier for everybody."

It is a program that has been occurring in Sioux City for nearly a decade, serving as a model for other districts across the state.

"Sioux City was actually the first district in Iowa to embrace and infuse this bullying and gender violence prevention program long before other school districts and communities were talking about bullying prevention," said Heisterkamp.

The National Guard joined them, teaching leadership skills the students can take back to their classrooms and hallways.

"Part of being a leader is being able to communicate and make connections with others. The army guard comes in and teaches our students some low ropes activities, and some activities that our students can take back with them to high schools, and work with younger students," said Heisterkamp.

When these students leave here, they'll welcome next year's 9th graders, making connections that will hopefully last for years.

"And that transition into that 9th grade year, which is a scary time, these older students will take these activities, and use them as teambuilding activities and ice breaking activities, so that they make some connections with the school, the mentors, and once that relationship is established, mentors remain with them throughout the whole year and periodically deliver the MVP curriculum which talks about being an active bystander and doing the right thing in difficult situations," said Heisterkamp.

This year's summit was international - a team of 15 people from Sweden was here to learn how Sioux City deals with bullying and violence prevention in schools.