When Officer Steven Gassert decided to work as a full-time School Resource Officer in schools in the City of Twin Falls, his personal and professional ambition was to make those schools feel safe for students.
In October 2012, Gassert attended a bully prevention training program, where he learned that eight out of 10 students don’t report bullying because they don’t believe an adult will do anything about it.
That’s when Gassert began brainstorming ways for students to report bullying without having to directly approach a school staff member of school resource officer. In February 2013 Officer Gassert launched a new and creative way for students at Robert Stuart Middle School to report bullying. He dubbed it: The Bully Bucket.
The Twin Falls Police Department is pleased to announce that it is working with the Twin Falls School District to expand the Bully Bucket program into other schools. In addition to Robert Stuart, the program will now be offered in Vera C. O'Leary.
The Bully Bucket is a way for students to simply write down their concerns on a piece of paper and place them in a bucket. Officer Gassert check the bucket multiple times each day and investigates any and all concerns reported by students. Students are given peace of mind because they know that Officer Gassert will always look into the concerns they place in the bucket. But he doesn’t stop there.
Gassert also enters the information into a database, which allows him to track specific locations, times, names and other information to address the issue of bullying. It also helps him identify trends that guide his self-initiated activity to prevent bullying before it happens. For example, when Officer Gassert identifies a trend in a location or time, he begins directing any available time to being in that area during that time to help prevent future bullying.
In addition to expanding the program to more schools, Gassert will also expand the program's focus on changing the culture in our community's schools to foster an environment of simple kindness and respect among all students. He will work with students to teach students how to stand up for other students who may be bullied in school or online.
"When I give the presentations to students, I talk them about making a difference in someone's life," Gassert said. "For example, I challenge them to do at least one random act of kindness each day for someone else in school, which demonstrates that even through small actions we can all make big changes in the way we treat each other."
Gassert’s efforts have been extremely successful – even to the point that he has been asked to teach the program to other resource officers in Idaho and other states. In November, the Twin Falls Police Department "wrapped" a patrol car with the Bully Bucket logo and slogan to make the message and the program more visible to parents and the public.
During the 2013 school year, there were 119 reports submitted to the Bully Bucket, but during this school year there have been fewer than 30 submitted. Gassert and school staff attribute the decline to more students feeling comfortable to report directly to Gassert in person. But more importantly, it has become something that the students have taken on as a school effort.
In June 2013, Gassert was awarded the Innovation of the Year Award from the Idaho Council for Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance. He is also offers several classes and events in the community and other schools about bully prevention.