The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying had its third community meeting Monday, Aug. 5, in Salina to learn more and gather input from the public.
Task Force co-chairs Dr. Rick Ginsberg and James Regier said the meetings are a good way to highlight bullying.
"I think there is something to be said about raising it into the public eye," Ginsberg said. "It's also helping districts think through this (bullying)."
Public input and information gathered at the meetings will be used to develop recommendations that will be presented to the Kansas State Board of Education in December 2019.
Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson announced in March 2019 the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying to research and identify current bullying trends, data and prevention measures occurring across the state in an effort to understand better how to combat this complex issue.
The group also is reviewing work in the areas of social-emotional learning; reviewing current statutes, regulations and policies to determine need for change; and identifying possible avenues that could reduce and prevent incidents of bullying and cyber bullying.
Members of the public are invited to make oral comments at each of the meetings and written comments also are accepted. A few public oral comments were made at the first meeting in May at the Orion Education and Training Center in Clearwater. There also were written comments read aloud. The second meeting took place at Horace Good Middle School in Garden City, and the August meeting took place at Smoky Hill Service Center in Salina.
While there have been a few oral comments and some written comments, Ginsberg, who is dean of the University of Kansas School of Education, said he is hoping more people attend and share their thoughts at the remaining three meetings.
Vicki Price, program director of Child Advocacy and Parenting Services (CAPS) of Salina, took the opportunity during public comment to discuss teaching empathy to children.
Dr. Paula Fite, a professor of psychology and applied behavioral science at the University of Kansas, gave a presentation on peer aggression and victimization. She conducts research on peer aggression and victimization. While bullying may never be eradicated, children can become more resilient and peer victimization can be reduced.
Peer victimization is a "relationship-based pattern of behavior that involves the use of bullying and other aggressive acts to intentionally oppress, humiliate or dominate others," Fite said. Peer victimization involves bullies, victims and bystanders, she said. Prevention and intervention are needed.
School environments should feel safe and loving, she said, and make students feel safe enough to report incidents. If students don't feel safe, there is a lack of connectedness to other students and teachers; a student is less likely to report incidents; and there are feelings of hopelessness and worry.
Victimization, including physical, relational and cyber, happens in many places, according to a study Fite shared. Many schools were surprised to find it was happening in all forms on the bus. Another place where physical and relational victimization is occurring at high rates is on the playground.
Policies surrounding bullying should be clear, concise and include consistent reporting, investigating and tracking procedures that all teacher and staff members are aware of and trained on.
Kathy Mosher, executive director of the Central Kansas Mental Health Center in Salina, is discussing the connection between bullying and trauma and education and mental health with members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying.
Mosher told the Task Force members that prevention is key, along with educating children about bullying because often they are the only ones who know that it is taking place.
A community problem like bullying needs a community solution, Mosher said.
"Ask questions," she said. "If you're a bystander and see it happening, intervene."
The next Task Force regional meeting will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Greenbush Service Center in Girard.
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