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Swanson Elementary School's P.E.A.C.E. Program Cuts Down on Bullying

Promoting Empathy and Compassion Everywhere teaching young students positive behaviors and how to handle conflict among their peers.

Swanson Elementary School is seeing the number of behavioral referrals from bus and on-school conduct decrease significantly — and the school staff is attributing it to the implementation of its P.E.A.C.E. program.

P.E.A.C.E stands for Promoting Empathy and Compassion Everywhere. The school is using the approach to cut down on bullying and other destructive behaviors among the young children. The program is in its sixth year.

“I firmly believe it is the fabric of who we are at the school,” said Wendy Ruhland, a Swanson teacher who helped implement the program.

The P.E.A.C.E. program was “birthed out of tragedy,” Ruhland said. The program started in another school district after a high school student took his own life after never fitting in with his peers.

The school is targeting the elementary school students now because behaviors are learned at a young age.

“Often by the time kids are in middle and high school, patterns have already been developed and it is too late,” Ruhland said.

Elementary school students approached the Elmbrook School Board last week and shared how the P.E.A.C.E. program affected them personally.

Sam Delgadillo wasn’t thrilled at first when he learned he was moving into Swanson school.

“I was determined to hate Swanson,” Sam told the school board.

But with the program’s work to teach students how to handle conflict among their peers, Sam’s singing a different tune about his new elementary school.

“My class helped me fit in,” Sam said. “My teacher really helped me.”

Elmbrook School Board Member Kathryn Wilson said she’s had children in Swanson “forever.”

“I have always felt it was a positive, safe environment, but it does get better and better,” Wilson said.

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