Bullies at forefront of meeting

 bear valley

 

Bully—it’s a term that has become a buzzword in recent years. Those who are bullies or have been bullied have been topics of discussion as the increase in violence on school campuses comes to light.

 Bear Valley Unified School District hosts a community outreach meeting on the topic Wednesday, Aug. 27. Parents, students and community members are invited to the discussion table. Presenters share strategies and intervention methods used locally, as well as strategies and tools to use at home. A panel of experts will answer questions.

“It’s one thing we want to be proactive on,” said Kurt Madden, superintendent of schools, during a previous interview with The Grizzly. “We need to start that dialogue.”

In recent school shootings around the country, in many cases the suspects have had a history of mental illness and have often been involved in bullying issues many times as the victim. Kelly McBride, vice president of academic programs at Poynter, a news university in Florida, states bullying is not on the rise and does not lead to suicide in an October 2013 article. The article is an educational tool aimed at journalists, and she notes that journalists are complicit in a gross oversimplification of a complicated phenomenon. “In short we’re getting the facts wrong,” McBride states. 

She writes that suicides occur because of mental illness. Bullying is defined as an ongoing pattern of intimidation by a child or teenager over others who have less power. 

McBride’s article states that implying that teenage suicides are directly caused by bullying reinforces a false narrative with no scientific support. Opportunities to educate the public about how to reduce bullying and suicide are missed as a result, McBride writes. Her full article can be found at Poynter.org.

Madden said the town hall event could lead to an exploration of anti-bullying programs that work elsewhere and could be adapted to Bear Valley schools. It could also result in changes to school policies regarding bullying.

While bullying isn’t commonplace in the district, Madden said, it does occur, often in the elementary grades. “It’s a universal problem,” Madden said.

Toward the end of the 2013-14 school year, parents of two Big Bear Elementary School children complained to the Bear Valley Unified School District board that their children were being picked on. Those complaints prompted Madden’s call for the town hall meeting.

Persons believed to be bullying or bullied are referred to the family advisor in each school, part of the district’s Healthy Start program. The advisors meet with pupils, call in parents and counsel teachers in an attempt to curb problems. Disciplinary measures or even referrals to mental health or law enforcement are possibilities.

“If we feel there is a potential for a student to hurt themselves or hurt others, we report them,” Healthy Start program supervisor Tanya Perry said during an interview with The Grizzly this past spring.

The family advisors also spend time in the classroom, Perry said. Lesson topics include bullying and cyber-bullying. Older students also learn about cliques, sexting and texting, and maintaining a good reputation.

Cyber-bullying is particularly hard to detect because it happens under the radar. “We need to strive for digital citizenship,” Madden said.

On a helpful note, Madden said that when the district tracked students involved in bullying in fifth and sixth grades, the problems had largely diminished by eighth grade. He attributed the reduction to kids growing older and behaving better, and strong anti-bullying efforts at Big Bear Middle School.

Soroptimist International of Big Bear Valley Inc. focused its Man About Town fundraiser on a Stop Teen Violence campaign for several years, raising funds toward the goal. Funding for programs and a position at the middle school were part of the

campaign.

The Aug. 27 meeting is the first of a three-part series on the topic. School district officials say that public participation is important in reducing and eliminating bullying in schools and creating an environment of kindness.

The community outreach meeting is at Big Bear Middle School at 6 p.m. The middle school is at 41275 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake. For more information, call the school district office at 909-866-4631.