Dempsey Middle School students are being encouraged to be kind and positive in their day-to-day activities during the school day.

Dempsey Middle School students are being encouraged to be kind and positive in their day-to-day activities during the school day.

Principal Andy Hatton said research has shown that the stronger relationships are between students and teachers in a school, the safer the school is for all who attend.

"School violence, bullying and harassment rates go down in a school where students feel connected to their teachers and students know each other better," he said.

One way schools are encouraging positive attitudes among students is through the Power of One, a program that is also in place at Willis Intermediate School.

"The message of Power of One is the power of having one friend, or the power of one school to make a difference in how we treat one another," Hatton said.

During morning announcements this year, he has been encouraging students to brainstorm what they could do to make it a great day for someone else.

They have come up with lots of ways to "spread the kindness," he said.

"A group of students put individual notes with different positive messages on all 938 lockers in the school," he said.

"Another group of students has created a Twitter and Instagram account they encourage students to follow. They post photographs and quotes with positive messages on them every day."

Students are also doing things like Mix It Up Day, when they sit with people they don't know in an effort to get better acquainted.

"We want our students to get to know each other," Hatton said. "You are less likely to harass someone if you know them."

Teachers are encouraged to pay attention to students and notice if they're doing something positive and hand the student a wristband or lanyard to show that their good deed was noticed.

"If a student stays late to help stack chairs for the janitor, and sits with a new student at lunch, we want our teachers to have interactions with the students to show that they are being noticed," Hatton said.

Julie German, assistant principal at Dempsey, said teachers are trying to notice the students when they do these things on their own.

"It's not really about rewarding them for doing good, but reinforcing to them that what they did was kind," she said. "It's good to notice when someone is doing something naturally."

Hatton said teachers and administrators want students to internalize these behaviors so they become intrinsic.

In addition, he said, the district is a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) district, which means the school is proactive about setting up expectations and desired behavior.

In addition, they provide success plans for students who have a hard time meeting the expectations.

"Eighty percent of students will respond to the universal expectations. A small percentage will have trouble on some days, and an even smaller percentage will struggle with expected behavior," he said.

Hatton said school leaders work with students and families and come up with a plan on how to tackle behavior problems and find what will work for each student.

"We have been a PBIS district for years, and when we have an elementary school student come to our school who has been to a PBIS school, we really see a difference," he said. "There are major drops in physical aggression."