Solon school enhances effort to curb bullyingBullying is alive and well at Solon Springs school, but a group of students and staff members are fighting back.
By: Anna Kurth, The Daily Telegram
Bullying is alive and well at Solon Springs school, but a group of students and staff members are fighting back.
They met Friday to discuss what students can do to prevent bullying and to stop it when it happens to them.
The group has been meeting since March to curb bullying at the school, said Sue Chandler, Solon Springs principal. The focus started this fall when she developed a new form for filing harassment reports. Last school year, students filing a harassment report would write out in paragraph form what happened and submit it to Chandler.
The new harassment form is more kid-friendly. It asks students questions in short answer form so administrators get the details they need, which often was left out of reports. The forms have already improved reporting, she said.
The bullying and harassment meetings developed after a parent approached Chandler about an incident involving her daughter. That spurred Chandler and Det. John Parenteau of the Douglas County Sheriff Department to develop the bullying and harassment task force.
Much of the problem stems from verbal abuse — rumors and gossip that spread quickly with the use of technology.
“It’s been a problem,” Chandler said.
E-mail, instant messaging and text messaging make it too easy for students to repeat gossip and rumors without having to see the person who’s affected, she said.
It doesn’t just happen at home. Students are not supposed to have their cell phones turned on during the school day, but a teacher can’t stop them from turning it on and texting while they’re in the bathroom, she said.
Chandler said she sees the increase in the rumor mill coming from culture as well as technology. Many of the celebrity gossip shows and magazines compete to have the story first about a celebrity, and students emulate that.
“It’s almost a prestigious thing to have the most and most disgusting gossip about someone and have it first,” Chandler said, “and it doesn’t matter if it’s true.”
Task force members Brooke Voehler and Ariel Johnson, both freshmen, said they don’t see technology as a problem, but agree gossip is an issue for Solon Springs students.
Verbal abuse is the most hurtful form of bullying, Johnson said.
“We want something done about the harassment,” she said. “I’ve been harassed for a number of years, and it’s just not fun.”
Students shouldn’t have to worry about protecting themselves at school, she said.
Bullying is a widespread problem and occurs at all grade levels. Between 8 and 38 percent of students are bullied by 5 to 9 percent of students at any given grade level. Bullying is most common among elementary students, according to “Bullying In School,” a 2006 report released by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Policing Services.
Friday’s meeting was attended by students from six grades, including half of the sixth grade class. More sixth and ninth grade students will be invited to the next meeting, Chandler said.
“When I do discipline I see a lot of issues at those two grades,” she said. “We have some really, really good kids in both of those classes, and they’re really being suppressed by the kids who are doing things wrong.”
The task force meetings are held every two to three weeks.
“I joined because one of my close friends is being bullied,” Voehler said. “If people don’t have respect for each other, then no one will have respect at all.”
It’s hard enough for students to keep up with classes and homework without having to worry about bullies, Voehler said.
The meetings are beginning to have a positive effect, Chandler said.
“I think the kids are more aware,” she said. “They take stock of some things they say that are gossipy, and they’re realizing they may be a part of the problem.”
Students who attend the meetings are being inspired to get involved if they see bullying taking place and try to stop it.
“I’ve seen improvement,” Voehler said. “We need to get more students to attend. It needs to start with students.”
Besides talking, the task force is also planning for a speaker to visit the school May 8. Kristine Midthun, from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, will speak about cyberbullying and Internet safety to the middle and high school students.
Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.