STARS Bullying Prevention Month

October is Bullying Prevention month, focusing on groups across the country committed to putting an end to bullying, relaying information aimed to bring awareness as well as to provide prevention resources.
October serves as a reminder that bullying is an issue entire communities must address. One valuable way to do that is to educate ourselves and our communities, and be aware of the resources available. STARS has been solution-focused on this issue for over 20 years. Here are some valuable program resources we would like to share with you.

KOTBKids on the Block (KOB): Our program educates children and the broader community about challenges and important issues that affect their lives, reaching nearly 40,000 children and adults in schools and community agencies across Tennessee counties.
“Kids on the Block tailors its bullying prevention programs to fit the needs of the age group. KOB starts talking to Kindergarteners about teasing and name calling and how words can hurt. With 1st graders, we talk about self-control and problem solving, helping them to see that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. With 2nd graders, we talk about differences and how we are all different and that should be celebrated and not used to hurt. With older elementary students, we try to help them distinguish between bullying and conflicts. We also work to empower bystanders encouraging them to be “standbyers” – someone who will go and stand to support kids who are getting bullied or harmed in anyway.” – Melanie Scott, Program Director of Kids on the Block

SAPStudent Assistance Program (SAP): Our nationally recognized, evidence-based program provides counselors in Middle and High Schools to help students address issues such as bullying. SAP has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) as one of three evidence-based practices to address intervention services for youth ages 6 to 18.
“Each of the schools we serve has different needs; our Student Assistance Program works closely with the individual school administrators and faculty on how to help spread awareness of bullying and to advocate for bullying prevention within the school. Our Student Assistance Program also works closely with other STARS programs like MOVE2STAND and Kids on the Block to meet the needs of the individual students. Our counselors work individually with students who have been bullied by providing them a supportive place where they can address their feelings and process their hurt. The SAP counselors will also help the young person to set boundaries for themselves and work on assertive communication. For the persons’ that bully, the SAP counselor works to show them how their behavior affects others and works to focus on the personal experiences that have lead them to bullying behavior.” – Kay Higgs, Student Assistance Program Team Leader/Trainer
To see a list of the schools we are currently in, click here.

YODAYouth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA): We believe people can recover and we do not give up. YODA provides an intensive outpatient program for adolescents with drug and substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders. While the program does not focus on bullying prevention, we try to meet our kids where they are.
“The reasons why people use drugs are pretty simple: It feels good. Another reason people use drugs is to feel better. Kids get high to deal with poverty, abuse, co-occurring disorders, bullying… all of that. If we can teach them other ways to cope, we’ve done our job and hopefully interrupted the progression towards addiction.” – Lisa Bell, Director of Clinical Services

M2SMOVE2STAND (M2S): M2S is an interactive training program to challenge students to examine their attitudes toward bullying. This one-day youth summit creates empathy and helps young leaders understand how bullying impacts school climate and communities. Additionally, it motivates the students to be the change in their school and to create a positive and inclusive school climate.
“M2S challenges every person in the room to get outside their comfort zone by physically moving and standing beside a person who needs that additional support. It allows bystanders to recognize the harmful effects of bullying and harassment while also teaching them low risk strategies to effectively support students who are getting bullied…M2S gives hope to those who have none.” – Eric Johnson, VP of Youth Development, Program Director of MOVE2STAND
To find out how to bring a training to your school, please contact us.

SSWDHHServices for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing(DHH): Students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have increased difficulties with communication, isolation, depression, learning and family connections. Our award-winning services have received national and local attention because of the support it provides. From after-school services to in-home services, the program helps Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who may be at a higher risk of being targeted or bullied in their schools.
“We address bullying in a variety of different ways; one of our projects consists of the students creating a video where they address bullying as one of the topics; when they see it done to others, when it is done to them, how it makes them feel, etc. We also address bullying in the daily activities and teachings that we do with our students.” – Laura Lekowicz-Ballard, Program Director of Services for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
To learn more about STARS follow us online:
Facebook: /STARSNASH

Substance Abuse in Families

Substance Abuse is a serious disease that continues to threaten the fabric of our community. As we look throughout society, there are many examples of substance abuse and the collateral damage that it leaves. If not careful, the family of a substance abuser can be swallowed by the collateral damage. With no preexisting knowledge or tools, substance abuse of a loved one can leave a family helpless. There are, however, tools that can help family members in this state.
To begin, a family that educates themselves on the disease of addiction gathers tools necessary to fight the many extremes of those suffering from substance abuse. Education can help a family with the extremes by giving them information on recovery, sobriety and even relapse. Education on the disease of addiction can help families understand how the disease operates, how it affects neurological pathways and the eventual role a family member can play in recovery. This education can be gained through an array of methods, books, magazines, web articles, or a treatment facility.
A treatment facility can be a huge aid in helping a family through this difficult process (provided your substance abuser is seeking additional help for their drug treatment). While the loved one seeks treatment for their drug of choice, families can meet with a family therapist. Therapists can listen to, encourage, and empower family members. A family therapist is not there to cast blame or bring shame. They educate and enlighten families on the topic of substance abuse and how to move forward.
In addition to education, a support team is necessary throughout and beyond the recovery process. A support team is another tool in the toolbox. Talk with families who have been through this process. You may ask, “Where can I find such people?” Start with Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a program offering fellowship and camaraderie for families of substance abuse users. You may also find support members at local 12–step meetings, churches, or other community-based programs. Remember, there is strength in numbers. A support team helps the family who ultimately helps the substance abusing loved one. Just as the family counselor, support teams can empower, listen, encourage, and often offer insight from their own personal experience.
Admittedly, these are only a few quick tools family members can use to aid themselves in the battle of a substance abusing loved one. Nevertheless, these tools can offer great insight, reassurance, and comfort while a family walks alongside love ones into recovery.

Need Support?

For more information and referrals in dealing with addiction, 24/7, call the Tennessee REDLINE at (800) 889-9789

Local to Middle Tennessee?

The STARS Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse (YODA) program located in Nashville, TN, provides compassionate care for adolescents and young adults with substance use and co-occurring disorders. YODA provides free treatment services to youth ages 13-18 who are uninsured or have insurance that will not pay for treatment.
Visit us at the Youth Opportunity Center
1704 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203, or visit our website.
For referral & intake call our confidential line: (615) 983-6809
National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Integrating School Climate Reform

My Experience at IIRP’s Integrating School Climate Reform

One of the most enjoyable, rewarding parts of my work is providing training for school personnel. I believe in professional development and care deeply about serving those that care for our young people. I’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of schools, districts and community organizations as well as lots of different programs these last 30 years. A constant question throughout the years from educators is “How do we coordinate all these initiatives we implement with any degree of success? There are so many programs and we can’t do another one.” I share their concerns!

school climate, Rodger Dinwiddie, stars, education reform, iirp

In July, I had the privilege of serving as a panel member at a symposium sponsored by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). This was a first: a gathering of 150 plus school and community leaders from across the United States committed to working together with the dual purpose of learning from each other and how to consider integrating frameworks for the improvement of school climate efforts. Panel members included leaders from nationally and internationally evidence-based programs and practices; Jeff Sprague, Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, Tia Kim the Committee for Children (Second Step and Steps to Respect), Rick Phillips, Safe Ambassador Program, Jane Riese, Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Jonathan Cohen, National School Climate Center, Keith Hickman, IIRP, and yours truly representing STARS Student Assistance Programs.

A Snapshot of School Climate Discussion

IIRP hosted this first of its kind symposium entitled, “Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts”. A small group discussion format based on the civic engagement work of Peter Block was facilitated by dear friend and colleague, Lee Rush (certified trainer). CEO of IIRP, John Bailie, spearheaded the initiative. After brief presentations from panel members the entire group participated in circles, the cornerstone of restorative practices, and discussed topics related to how best to address issues of school climate from a very broad perspective. The process was powerful and there were great moments of insight captured for future discussion and possible action steps.

While the intent of the symposium was not to reach consensus about an overall strategy to integrate and coordinate all these or for that matter, any of the hundreds of efforts across the country, the conversations stimulated tremendous thought and generated many possibilities. This was no simple, single event attempt to solve all the issues related to integration of programs, services and frameworks. It was a purposeful, thoughtful conversation. Some of the next steps will include the development of a “white paper” outlining findings and key observations from the symposium.

Endless Possibilities for Collaboration and Integration

I believe I’d be correct in stating that one of the greatest benefits, personally and professionally, was the interactions and development of relationships with members of the panel and participants. Many of the panel members had never met individually, or spent this amount of time learning from one another. The future meetings and conversations that will result from this first gathering will no doubt bring about possibilities for collaboration and integration. It was a powerful opportunity to begin a very important conversation to address the question from many educators.

“How do we work all these efforts together?”

Read about the Restorative Works Learning Network recap of IIRP Symposium: Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts blog post. 

Understanding the Student Athlete

And why they are so necessary to improve school climate.

In 2008, my CEO came into my office and gave me a copy of the July7, 2008, Sports Illustrated article, Jocks Against Bullies, written by Selena Roberts. You can read the article here. It highlights the power and positive influence high school athletes can have on an entire school by standing up against bullying. He challenged me to blend my athletic past with my passion for working with young people to create a youth empowerment movement addressing the issues of bullying and harassment. I readily accepted the challenge and set to work.
So often, it is the student athlete who bullies. Years later, many people are still affected by a student athlete who bullied or harassed them. I recently spoke with a teacher who shared his high school experience regarding student athletes.

He stated, “They made my life a living hell and I hated my high school experience.”

I shared with him my task to help student athletes understand the enormous amount of power they have to lead, to change, to heal or to destroy. As former student athlete, I understand the power, fear and the responsibility that comes with being on a pedestal, along with being afraid of being knocked off and the shame of being ordinary.
Personally, I believe student athletes have a greater responsibility to do the “right thing” than they could ever imagine. Why? Because they walk a higher path; someone is always watching and looking up to them because they wear a jersey. Some elementary, middle, high school student or adult is looking up to them because they represent a symbol of power and respect. For that reason, student athletes have an enormous influence on school culture. I hear it all the time from non-athletes:

“I want to be just like them; to be popular; to be in; to be accepted.”

When student athletes see and understand the power they possess, they can become the game changer to create a positive change in people and their school. It has been a mission of mine to make the student athlete aware of the awesome responsibilities that come along with wearing that jersey—being a positive role model. It’s important to target as many student athletes as possible, to challenge them to physically and emotionally get involved in their school initiatives, to lead the movement of change.

But first, we must understand the student athlete.

Just like the traditional students, many athletes are afraid; I believe the fear to fit in is so great that even the student athlete hides behind a mask, too afraid to show his or her true authentic self to peers. It takes a different kind of courage to compete athletically. But I believe courage isn’t found on the football field, baseball field or a basketball court, but in the hallways, in the classrooms, on the buses, and in the lunch area.
Understanding the mindset of many student athletes, their need for a challenge, to be competitive and to win, our team challenges them to stop being afraid and to win in the hallways of their schools by embracing those who aren’t on a pedestal; by giving value to other students, by passing out compliments, assisting in hallway high-fives, providing classroom pats on the backs, school-wide smiles, lunch room invitations, and most of all to take a risk and be willing to fail. As athletes, we are taught to get back up when we are knocked down, to keep going when others stop, to sacrifice for the team– for others. So when the student athlete realizes that being a team player isn’t just limited to a gym or stadium but to their schools, they begin to understand and see the true power and meaning of leadership.
These student athletes see how their attitudes and actions have an effect on their school, and for those who embrace this opportunity, by taking the risk of becoming their true authentic selves, they see, in the words of Marianne Williamson, that their greatest fear is not that they are inadequate but they are powerful beyond measure. It’s their light, not their darkness, that most frightens them. We are all meant to shine and the light is not just in some of us but in all of us. When student athletes allow their lights to shine, they unconsciously give others permission to do the same. When they are liberated from their own fear, their positive presence automatically liberates others. When this happens, when we stand up for others, we change the culture and improve the climate.


Today, I work with an amazing team of caring adults committed to the social and emotional well-being of all children. Our MOVE2STAND team is invited into schools and communities to empower young people to be the change they want to see. The work is one of love and humility. I am a grateful witness to the magic that takes place when kids and adults remove their masks and treat one another with compassion and respect.

Internet Safety Tips

Internet Safety Tips

With summer just around the corner, kids and teenagers will be spending more time on social media channels and less time supervised by an adult. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to ensure your family is staying safe online.

Social Media Can Wait

Don’t be afraid to ask your child (13 or younger) why he/she feels social media sites such as SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Facebook are appropriate for their age group? Ask them why they want to be on social networking sites. If you feel like they are not ready to have a social media account, explain to them why you do not feel comfortable with the idea, the benefits of not having a social media account, and the perks of enjoying real-world activities over social media. Remind them that social media sites are not going anywhere. They have the rest of their lives to be active on social media accounts.

Know Their Passwords

It is important for you to know their passwords and periodically check their social media channels for anything out of the ordinary. Make sure your child is aware you know their passwords, that you will be routinely checking their page as a way to ensure their safety (not as a means to be “nosey”), and that your primary goal is their safety.  

Accept Parents’ Friend Request

We can already hear the uproar, “No! My mom joined Instagram and she wants to be my friend…Ugh. Gotta start using SnapChat instead…” The important part is to explain why accepting your friend request on social media channels is significant to their safety. Encourage other adult friends to follow/friend your child.

Friends Only

Privacy settings should be set to the highest level possible (i.e Friends Only). Privacy settings are relatively the same for each platform but periodically they are updated, so stay informed with the privacy settings to ensure your child is protected. Additionally, make sure your children know not to share personal information such as where they live, phone numbers, or any information you wouldn’t want on the web. As a house rule, your children should not accept anyone on any of their social media channels whom they do not know personally.

**Parents, it is your job to make sure they are sticking to this rule!

Helpful Suggestions:

As an adult, you need to be the expert. Stay informed of the latest social media channels, how they work, their privacy settings, etc.

We suggest the “family computer” be kept in a common area of the home where everyone has access to the computer and it is clearly visible. If your child has his or her own laptop or iPad, it is important to come up with guidelines of when, where, and how long he or she uses it. The same can be said for cell phones.

To help both parties agree on the terms and conditions of using technology, create a family contract that outlines your expectations as well as theirs. This will help ease conflicts down the road. If you are looking for an example of a contract, head on over to: Cyber Bullying Website

For more helpful tips and advice visit our blog!

STARS exists to serve schools and communities by providing prevention, intervention, and treatment services addressing bullying, substance abuse, violence and social and emotional barriers to success.