Madison (WKOW) -- One small part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget investment in public schools could make a big impact on our children's well being.
The governor's proposal includes $300-thousand over two years for an online bullying prevention program called Act Now. It's being used in 93 school districts in the state right now, including the Oregon School District. There, students start the course in 5th grade and take it for several years as they transition to high school.
"I think it's helped me learn more about kind of being careful about my actions and being more aware," says 8th grade student Arathi Fishwild. "We sometimes do things without really thinking about it and I feel like through this website some of the stuff they talk about is really helpful for anybody to control their actions and know when's a good time to speak out or when's a good time to keep to themselves."
Students say Act Now is more engaging than regular classwork. The program incorporates games with critical thinking questions, to get students thinking about how their actions can affect others. They learn from the perspective of the bully, the victim and the bystander.
"This kind of showed me that some of the things that I was saying, like just to my friends, that I thought was totally okay, it actually hurts their feelings," says Nolan Brandenburg, an 8th grade student.
Teachers at Oregon Middle School say they incorporate Act Now as part of a larger anti-bullying curriculum, where they have students work together to come up with ways to tackle problems.
"I think students sometimes give us our best ideas," says Janet Pliner, positive behavior interventions and support coach. "It's never an issue that goes away, so we're always trying to think of new and better ways to address it."
8th grade health teacher Darren Hartberg says Act Now helps the students gain a broader perspective on their lives.
"Much more comprehensive concepts and much more critical thinking is taking place in the 8th grade level of trying to decide not just what is [bullying] in definition, and maybe what it looks like, but how does it affect the full community, from their peers in health class, their peers outside of health class, and then of course even into the community and beyond the school walls," Hartberg tells 27 News.
Act Now is free for schools, run by Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Developers say if the budget measure is approved, this would be the first state money for the project and it could mean more schools, better technologies and after school programming.
"We'll keep expanding based on what each school needs, but we have a variety of different resources as well, so maybe looking at upgrading technology to meet needs," says Katie Horrigan, director of community education and outreach for the hospital.
As of last school year, 92-thousand students were enrolled in Act Now across 37 counties and it's growing every year. Horrigan says recent statistics show students who take the course make significant improvements in knowledge and attitudes towards bullying.
Click here for more information on Act Now.