A classmate threatened to kill high school senior Sean Parsons last month on an online chatboard.
Public Forum Seeks Ideas from Parents, Teachers and Students
By Patric Hedlund
On Saturday, Nov. 6 from 7-9 p.m. a public forum to end bullying is being held at Cuddy Hall in Lake of the Woods. Scott Parsons, whose son’s life was threatened in a cyberbullying incident last month, is convening the event.
Parsons invites families, students, teachers, school officials, trustees and professionals to attend “to help us all learn more about what we all can do to stop this kind of thing from happening in the schoolyard and online.”
The California Department of Education’s Office on School Safety and Violence Prevention gets five calls each day from concerned parents, according to CDE’s Stephanie Papas.
“Technology has outpaced legislation,” she says, explaining that bullying has grown in the lives of schoolchildren without parents and school officials knowing what has been happening and how it is affecting the classroom.
Youngsters in first grade are now experiencing bullying, both in the schoolyard and from “mean texting” on cell phones, family therapists Shelia Clark and Sarah Edwards said in an interview Saturday, Oct. 30.
Behaviors that may take place off of campus—including death threats, unwanted emails, spreading rumors online, assuming a victim’s identity to publish defamatory information about them or placing humiliating insults in online chat boards—impact the learning environment at the school.
“Suspensions and expulsions for such behavior is legal,” CDE’s school safety and violence prevention specialist Papas said. “School site administrators have the right and the responsibility to assure that the classroom is a safe, secure and peaceful place for students to learn.”
CDE’s website [www.cde.ca.gov] says, “Bullying by students and its negative effects erode students’ ability to learn. The link between bullying and later delinquent and criminal behavior has been documented by research in both the United States and abroad.”
CDE recommends a “Stop, Block and Tell” strategy in which youngsters are taught not to respond to offensive emails, to block further messages from an offender and to inform a parent or trusted adult. Four states passed laws against cyberbullying this year; California was not one of them.
In the absence of a law, Papas says, “Discipline is under local control. Your local school district has the power to create policy and procedures about how bullying is addressed. Administrators have a responsibility to take significant action; they don’t have to wait for a [triggering] event. It is not the safe path to wait for an event before creating policy,” Papas said in an interview from her Sacramento office on Oct. 29. She mentioned the cases of suicide that have occurred following bullying incidents.
“Teacher, principal, superintendent, district school board is the chain of command. There is nothing that would prevent a school board from adopting antibullying policies at every school site. I always tell parents, ‘Don’t hesitate to call the sheriff if your child has been assaulted or if a terrorist threat has been issued against them. Yes, the district attorneys are facing budget cutbacks too; they may not want to get involved, but file a police report as documentation.
“When it comes to safety I would not hesitate to call the media and the police; take a strong course of action. Parents have secured restraining or ‘stay away’ orders in court. It takes effort, but you don’t want to live with regret that you didn’t do everything within your power as a parent. I’ve advised parents to go to their assembly members. It takes everyone together to put an end to this problem.”
Over 100 people registered for a free training on bullying this month by Linda Sargent of the Kern County Office of Education. Parents, teachers and school administrators can still register for December 3 (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Bakersfield) and December 10. Contact Sargent at 661-636-4744 or 661-636-4652 (or at lisargent@ kern.org).
This is part of the November 05, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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