October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month and the Delaware Department of Children Youth and Their Families has made a new program available to help educators and parents identify and prevent bullying among the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) community.
Under the DSCYF’s Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, the anti-bullying program called “Step In, Speak Up” will be available online for free to any educator in the state.
The interactive program developed by a company called Kognito allows adults to log in and virtually play out different situations and scenarios.
“This program is a new interactive online course and they use avatars,” explained Yolanda Jenkins, prevention and substance abuse treatment administrator for the (DPBHS). “Avatars are animation and it simulates the conversation with three LGBTQ students who are facing a multitude of difficulty and dangers such as physical and verbal harassment, absenteeism, homelessness and thoughts of suicide.”
Jenkins said once users create a username and password, the program can be accessed from anywhere and is designed to be confidential.
“We want this to be very non-threatening because we want people to actually do the training so we can increase awareness and decrease the stigma,” she said.
In a 2011 Delaware school survey Jenkins said 14 percent of 8th graders and 20 percent of 11th graders felt that they were bullied on school property.
“We know the risk for being bullied is even higher for students who identify themselves or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questionable,” she said.
Jenkins added that they decided to implement the program after seeing an increased request for more LGBTQ and bullying information from educators across the state.
“Apparently they had been seeing more and more LGBTQ youth, more and more bullying, and they were feeling as if they were not equipped to handle those types of situations,” said Jenkins.
She added that it’s hard for people to intervene when they don’t know how to handle a situation.
“What we know is that people don’t intervene because they don’t know how or they don’t know what to say but this interactive online training allows the person that’s going through the training to throw out different scenarios to see what works best in scenarios and to help them to become comfortable with the topic so they are able to intervene,” she said.
The program is available at http://www.kognito.com/Delaware.