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Betsy Denson
or 1-800-392-4340, ext. 1236

Lady Oliver
or 1-800-392-4340, ext. 1361

Girl Scout Program Deals with the Issue of Bullying Among Girls

Middle school can be a difficult place for young women. One primary issue at the root of many adolescent issues is dealing with bullies and different kinds of aggression. For girls, relational aggression - or behaviors that harm others by damaging one's relationships with his/her peers, or injure one's feelings of social acceptance – is just as harmful to a student's ability to learn, grow and succeed as bullying in its physical form.

In order to help girls deal with different forms of bullying, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC) is participating in a P.A.V.E. (Project Anti-Violence Education) program at Spring Forest Middle School, Spring Woods Middle School and Spring Branch Middle School.

According to the National Education Association, an estimated 160,000 children miss school everyday due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. In 2003, the Girl Scout Research Institute published a study, Feeling Safe: What Girls Say (2003) that further details girls’ experiences:

  • For girls ages 8 to 17, 72 percent defined safety as not being physically hurt and 46 percent defined it as not having their feelings hurt. But when asked what actually worried them the most, the number one concern, noted by 32 percent, was being teased or being made fun of.
  • Teens ages 13 to 17 were less likely than preteens aged 8 to 12 to feel physically (62 percent vs. 72 percent) and emotionally (57 percent vs. 64 percent) safe.

To address these concerns, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) administers the P.A.V.E. the Way program, which is funded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. P.A.V.E. programs are currently underway in twenty-six councils in the United States and through USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO).

Currently in its second year in the Spring Branch Independent School District, the GSSJC P.A.V.E. program teaches girls to stand up for themselves and others against bullies in an assertive and meaningful way and to make healthy choices and decisions. Girls also learn to show respect for others through decreased bullying behaviors. Internet safety is also a component of the education.

Barbara Holt, a Safe and Drug Free Schools Consultant for the Spring Branch Independent School District, trains Spring Branch counselors who volunteer to be facilitators for the program. These facilitators meet with the girls once or twice a week and lead them through a variety of sessions in which they can share their experiences and seek advice from mentors and their peers. Gladys Birdwell with GSSJC serves as a project manager for the local program.

“If we can get this group of girls to be nicer to each other,” Barbara says, “then we’re setting the foundation for more positive interaction in the future. Once you really get to know someone, it’s that much harder to devalue them.”

Shannon Boyer, the facilitator at Spring Branch Middle School agrees. “We have seen dramatic changes in the interactions the girls have with each other within the group and with their peers,” she says. “As we strive to lead this young generation to learn how to respect themselves and each other, they will in turn share their knowledge with those around them.”

The program for the girls at Spring Branch Middle School (SBMS) will end in late November with a service-learning component in which the group will serve as pen pals to the fourth and fifth graders at Woodview Elementary. The pen pal program will serve as a bridging element for these future SBMS students.

Participant Alina Z. has enjoyed the sessions and is excited to impart some of what she has learned to others: “Remember to always be yourself. If you try to be someone else, you won’t know who you are anymore.”

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.5 million girls and adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving over 63,000 girl members and 18,000 adults in 25 southeast Texas counties. For more information on Girl Scouts, membership or volunteer opportunities, call 713-292-0300 or visit

GSSJC Pluralism Statement
Embracing and promoting pluralism is an integral part of every activity and plan of Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, not disconnected or separate projects. Only individuals willing to accept and be educated about the basic tenet that Girl Scouting is for all girls may serve in volunteer leadership or staff positions.

GSSJC | Communications Department
3110 Southwest Freeway  Houston, TX 77098