At Eisenhower Middle School, assistant principal Kristen Dolen receives reports of bullying – but often it comes from the parents of the student who is being bullied, not the victim.
This concerns Dolen, she told members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying Prevention during a regional meeting Tuesday, June 18, at Horace Good Middle School in Garden City. This was the second meeting in a series of six regional meetings taking place across Kansas.
“It won’t be a quick fix,” Dolen said of stopping bullying. “I don’t know if there will ever be a silver bullet for bullying.”
But there are ways to combat the problem, meeting attendees told task force members, such as educating young students and early childhood teachers about the issue; focusing more on the social-emotional health of students; and holding bullies accountable for their actions.
Adriana Holguin, a migrant advocate for Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Sublette, gave a cultural perspective on bullying presentation to task force members. She surveyed some of the families she works with and discovered their children were bullied because of their ethnicity. Holguin choked back tears as she described some of the bullying experiences the children have encountered – including one student who was told he couldn’t join the military because of his ethnicity.
Written comments from five McPherson students were shared during the meeting, too.
Bullying is an injustice because it can hurt people emotionally and physically,” a 13-year-old wrote. “There is not a solution to stop bullying people with a different sexuality, but you could educate people by having them imagine that they or their kid was getting bullied and hurting so bad that they wanted to hurt/kill themselves.”
A McPherson Middle School student used her letter to share thoughts on cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying can kill people and one death is one too many,” she wrote. “I think bullying should matter to all teachers … It makes me want to cry when I see people getting bullied.”
Another McPherson Middle School student said bullying “is happening around the world every day to young children, teenagers and event adults.”
Beverly Benton, a licensed specialist clinical social worker and mental health consultant for Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Center, Dodge City Unified School District 443, said many people don’t realize how prevalent bullying is among preschool children. In fact, bullying in early childhood is common because children have fewer refined social and emotional regulation skills and teachers aren’t looking for it, she said.
From the first day of school, teachers should talk about what bullying is and what it isn’t, Benton said. There also should be more teacher-child relationship building and a bigger focus on social-emotional.
Benton said she also would like to see a reduction in direct instruction and less sitting, more personal interactions, support for parents and exploration of restorative justice for all ages, including preschool.
Ron Orsak, principal of Cheney Middle School, Cheney USD 268, in a written statement said he thinks “we have not done a good job of educating everyone or in sharing the meaning (of bullying).”
The state of Kansas' legal definition of bullying is “any intentional gesture or any intentional written, verbal, electronic or physical act or threat either by any student, staff member or parent toward a student or by any student, staff member or parent toward a staff member that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that such gesture, act or threat creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment that a reasonable person, under the circumstances, knows or should know will have the effect of:
This should be the number one item on the task force list,” Orsak wrote. “Educate everyone (students, parents, teachers, admin, etc.) on what bullying is and is not.”
He also wrote that students need to be taught resiliency, self-confidence, proper responses and how and who to report their experiences. And when bullying is properly identified, there needs to be consistent consequences.
The task force will have its next regional meeting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, at the Smoky Hill Education Service Center in Salina.
For more information about the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying Prevention, visit https://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Special-Education-and-Title-Services/Early-Childhood/Blue-Ribbon-Taskforce-on-Bullying.
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