From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 6 - May 1, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Schools Not Going To Be Bullied
SCSD#1 works to stifle intolerance in Pinedale schools
by Tiffany Turner

Intolerance is an increasingly obvious problem within the Pinedale school system, enough that faculty in the three schools and the superintendent’s office are updating policies and programs to stifle intolerance and bullying within the district.

“There are ongoing, smaller issues with bullying, calling each other mean names and peer group exclusion,” said Superintendent Doris Woodbury. “These behaviors are something that our school and schools across the nation deal with on a continual basis.

“Because we believe that every child has a right to feel safe in order for them to learn, the district had made plans to address areas of disrespectful behavior towards others with stepped up training for all staff in the fall. Topics will include bully-proofing the school, tolerance for others, sexual harassment, respect, positive attitudes etc.”

A big example

Although small occurrences of bullying happen daily, one large incident showcasing the developing intolerance has moved district and parents into quick action. Several weeks ago, a Pinedale High School government class held a Mock Legislation and proposed a “bill.”

“As part of an assessment in the government classes, students were asked to draft a ‘bill’ and follow it through the legislative process,” Woodbury said. “The bill in question addressed coping with the influx of illegal aliens, a timely and current topic across the nation.”

“Where the process went awry was during committee, where two friends of the bill’s author decided to play what at first appeared to be a harmless joke by amending the bill to include ‘cruel and unusual punishments,’ branding and death, for any offenders,” Woodbury added.

As discussion of the bill continued, many students were “upset and concerned,” Woodbury said, and spoke about the matter with their parents and other friends after the class. As the information was carried home, many concerned parents arranged to meet with the school administrator.

“A parent and community meeting was held to allow for full discussion of the issues, fears and concerns surrounding the proposed mock legislation activity,” Woodbury said.

“Approximately 18 people came to the meeting and this group developed several positive action plans to address the concerns that had been identified, most of which fall under the umbrella of tolerance for others.”

According to Woodbury, after the meeting the government teacher met with students in his classes to discuss the bill and shared that the legislation violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (prohibiting “cruel and unusual punishment”).

“Providing a panel discussion for students is another of the steps in the plan to address intolerance of others,” Woodbury said. “Interested parents and staff will respond to several questions and engage in a dialog with students after Wednesday’s assembly on positive and respectful relationships between men and women.”

Where does bullying come from?

“I do not believe we have an increase in bullying behaviors in our schools,” Woodbury said. “I do believe that bullying is being addressed vigorously so it may appear more prevalent.”

Around the nation, dealing with the intolerance and bullying is coming to the forefront and are being address with increasing frequency, Woodbury said.

“Perhaps those that experienced bullying as children are now in positions to help get it stopped,” she added.

Woodbury explained that she hopes all children in the school understand the issues and problems with intolerance and bullying, and that they and their parents feel welcome enough to call attention to incidents that occur.

“If anyone feels that they have been bullied or mistreated while attending the Pinedale Schools, I encourage them to contact their school counselor as soon as possible,” she said. “The schools will address each issue in a confidential and helpful way. As superintendent, my door is always open to assist any parent or student with any issue or concern.”

From a parent Janet Bellis, recently relocated to the town but a Wyoming native and mother of children in both the elementary school and middle school has seen and heard about the problems in the school system firsthand, and is currently part of the parents working with the school to help make a change.

“From what I understand it is becoming very pervasive,” Bellis said. “It is happening on the bus, in the schools and on th eplayground .You can talk to any parent and its happening in every single grade.”

Bellis has shadowed her kids through their classes for a day to understand what is happening.

“I was amazed,” she said. “No,I was appalled, that there’s no real discipline. I think what is happening is we have a lot of people moving in and their behavior is new... and we don’t know how to handle it.”

“We’re just not accustomed to that,” she added.

According to Bellis, kids in the middle school have even formed their own “gang” complete with nicknames, following suit of the larger groups in the big cities.

“It’s the beginning of gang behavior and I am not sure we want that here,” Bellis said. “It needs to be dealt with... It needs to be something with the schools and the citizens of the community... to say, ‘No, we are not going to take this behavior.’”

Meeting the challenge According to Woodbury, the school plans to deal with bullying and intolerance in each school, with programs directed to th different age groups.

“May is ‘Tolerance Month’ at the elementary school,” Woodbury said. “Parents will receive a series of informative articles and suggestions for dealing with tolerance and respect issues. Students will participate in special activities designed to help build under standing between cultures and acceptance of differences.”

For the older students, Woodbury said there is a program called “Challenge Days” where trainers from outside the district will work with students and faculty to address the issues of understanding, tolerance and respect. Staff in the high school is working to bring this program to the district. More on Challenge Days can be found at

Another program in the works is the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program ( Robena Downey, director of the Sublette County Drug and Alcohol Coalition, is applying for a grant to fund the research-based program.

“(Olweus is) a research-based program proven to reduce bullying and violence toward others by more than one-third,” Woodbury said. “We will learn in late May if the grant has been funded.”

Middle school students will add an Advisor/Advisee program next year in hopes of dealing with these issues.

“Everyday middle school students will learn in small groups about respect, study skills, making a difference in the community and other pro-social activities,” Woodbury said. Woodbury added that in addition to working students, faculty and staff would also receive continued training on the subjects to ensure proper behavior is spotted and promoted.

“All staff will receive stepped-up training annually on district expectations, how to identify and address issues with bullying, sexual harassment and intolerant behaviors as well as how to promote pro-social behavior status in students,” Woodbury said.

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