Volume 8, Number 8 - May 15, 2008
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Parents Pursue Bully Program
We were all kids once, andmost can remember events on the schoolyard where other kids shoved or called names or another version of childhood confrontation. It was just kids being kids, right?
Several parents within the Sublette County schools are coming forward to speak out against incidents happening to their children, while at school, that they don’t classify as normal.
They call it bullying.
Some parents who feel schools are not taking necessary actions are reaching out to local media and government to vent and ask for help to remedy the situation. Local KPIN radio host Bob Rule, contacted numerous times by other parents and a parent himself, went to the Sublette County School District No. 1 (SCSD#1) board meeting in Pinedale to call attention to their concerns and garner information as to what is being done to prevent these incidents from escalating.
Rule stated he felt the general consensus of the board was that the issues are under control and dealt with as needed – principals and counselors are told about and dealing with the problems, and SCSD#1 might instate (depending on grant availability) the “bullying” program, OLWEUS, which works with faculty, training them to prepare for conflicts and intolerance. One option Rule hoped to press on the school board was to bring in a bullying program presented by a rodeo clown that works with peer counseling.
There also appeared to be an issue of the school not knowing of incidents happening around the school, and faculty and school board were unaware of many incidents, Rule said.
“I was really surprised at the many, many stories parents were telling me about bullying incidents involving their school age children, mostly in middle school, but when I asked the parents what they had done about it, most of them said ‘nothing,’” Rule said. “They indicated that if they were to report the incident, it would just make things worse with teachers, school officials and the bullies. They felt their children would be far worse off if the incidents were reported.”
“They sure didn’t want me to use their names on a newscast,” he added.
Rule, who has a son, hears stories of problems at school said he became increasingly aware of a problem after a segment aired locally about a rodeo clown who peer-counsels high school students on bullying.
“In late April, the Cowboy State News Network, which KPIN Radio uses for its Wyoming news, carried an interview with rodeo clown Marvin Nash of Cheyenne, Wyoming, who has developed an anti-bullying program which he puts on in schools all across America,” Rule said. “Prior to the broadcast of that interview, I had never heard of ‘Starvin’ Marvin’ and his program ‘Bullying Hurts.’ But, as a result of the network carrying the interview, a substantial number of parents called KPIN Radio or stopped by the radio station and asked how to get in touch with him.”
Nash, after receiving phone calls and emails from concerned parents, began looking into the issues and statistics in Sublette County.
“(The parents) feel like there is a concern and it is not being addressed properly,” Nash said. “There’s two things here. One, (Sublette County) is not unusual; two, the process by which they are approaching it is not unusual either. Sometimes we as adults forget the reality of the situation as kids.”
Nash said he has run the “Bullying Hurts” program for four years now and performed it in 37 states as a community service program under the Department of Justice. He said he does many programs for schools and sheriff ’s departments and has a contract with the Boys and Girls Clubs.
“We teach the high school kids and they teach the elementary kids. ... It’s a proven form of education,” Nash said of his program. “It’s a no-brainer. The best way to directly affect the students is through peer mentoring. The process (everywhere) is ‘Oh, it’s just kids being kids,’” Nash said. “We only see the tip of the iceberg... Bullying problems are like mice. You know the old adage: if you see one mouse, there is probably 100 you don’t see.” “’Oh, it’s just kids being kids’ – that’s a very slippery slope,” he added.
Nash has contacted the local school districts to offer his program, even, he said, going so far as to find funding himself so it would not cost the district.
“I called the principal at the Pinedale High School (PHS)... and he basically said they weren’t interested,” Nash said. “The PHS principal kind of knocked it off at the knees.”
Nash was also informed that many in the district support PHS Principal Richard Kennedy’s decision to try other methods of coping with the issues. However, SCSD#9 has agreed to participate in the program, according to Nash, and dates are being worked out. Nash said he just hopes something will help the situations because doing nothing affects kids, as well.
“What does that leave in the mindset of a third, fourth or fifth-grader?” Nash asked.
Bob Rule and several parents he has spoken with, agree. “Several of the parents told me that if the school district cannot bring Marvin Nash to Pinedale, these parents would like to form an organization of parents to work together to bring Nash and his program to Pinedale and conduct his training sessions outside of the school system,” Rule said. “I’ve had a surprisingly large number of parents tell me they are seriously considering home-schooling next year, as a means of removing their children from the hostile environment that has developed in the middle school due to the bullying.”
Most say their first choice is to work with the school district and try to resolve the problem – but they will remove their children if the situation does not improve, according to Rule.
“Questar has agreed to pay the entire cost of the program so it would not cost the school board any money,” Rule told the board at its May 8 meeting. “Many parents have told me that we cannot wait until next fall to start working on this program, and (Nash) is available to come during May.”
According to SCSD #1 Supt. Doris Woodbury, the school plans to deal with bullying and intolerance issues, by addressing the different age groups with selective age-appropriate programs.
These steps include “Tolerance Month” in the elementary, “Challenge Days” to work with high school students and an advisement period in the middle school next year to discuss respect, study skills and tolerance. The school also plans to start the OLWEUS program, as the grant has been approved.
“I heard from Robena Downey that her grant application was funded to bring the OLWEUS Bully Prevention Program to Pinedale and Big Piney schools,” Woodbury said. “We are meeting today to go over timelines for training and initiating the program next year. OLWEUS is a common sense approach that includes: setting clear expectations that bullying won’t be allowed, training teachers and staff to identify and intervene when they see bullying occurring, increasing supervision in bullying ‘hot spots,’ and shifting the focus from negative consequences for students that are misbehaving to positive recognition for students that are meeting and exceeding the behavior expectations in the school.”
“In the meantime we have had a short assembly to explain the behavior expectations and we are addressing every bullying incident firmly, fairly and consistently,” Woodbury added.
Woodbury said Nash’s program was still being looked into.
“’Starvin’ Marvin Nash, the rodeo clown, is a very charismatic individual,” she said. “The program he has is consistent with the OLWEUS program. Our administrative team will evaluate the program and decide how it may or may not fit with our other interventions over the summer.”
Woodbury added in addition to working with students, faculty and staff would also receive continued training 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 social behavior status in students,” Woodbury said. “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.” For further information on programs in this article:
• Challenge Days – www.challengedays.com
• OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Program – www.clemson.edu/olweus/
• The Bullying Hurts Program – www.bullyinghurts.com
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