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Bullies and more!!!

We had the assembly and I thought it went well. It was a lot of music and lights for the kids. The message was spot on. I managed to be inspired enough to write my monthly column on bullying and you bloggers will get to read it here first. After the break, or during, I plan to blog about the Connecticut tragedy, and the remedies that I feel we should use as a nation. Below is the draft of my column. It will not please everyone so try and look at the big picture of our system and the role that everyone has in it. JB

The Principals Office (Vol 4)

 

Bully Bully!!

 

Hello all,

I am very saddened by the recent events that have happened in our nation and it makes it hard to understand why it happened. I want to tell everyone to please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers. It is a tragic event.

 

In Bottineau we have a bullying policy in place. We are not immune to bullying but there are certain aspects that we see, and certain criteria that many do not fully understand. As lead educator in the high school I thought I would take a moment to maybe dispel any rumors or clear up any confusion. The North Dakota law states the following about bullying:

 

 

1.            “Bullying” means:

a.            Conduct that occurs in a public school, on school district premises, in a district owned or leased schoolbus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district sanctioned or sponsored activity or event and which: (1)            Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes

with the student’s educational opportunities; (2)            Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm; (3)            Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of damage to property of

the student; or (4)            Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school; or

b.            Conduct that is received by a student while the student is in a public school, on school district premises, in a district owned or leased schoolbus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district sanctioned or sponsored activity or event and which:

(1)            Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the student’s educational opportunities;

(2)            Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm; (3)            Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of damage to property of

the student; or (4)            Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.

2.            “Conduct” includes the use of technology or other electronic media.

 

In reading this, I first want to say that no student should be picked on for anything. Things sometimes get confusing to understand. I will give you an example.

 

Let’s say that I ran my car out of gas on the way to school. I would arrive and tell the office people, and maybe the boss, or the other principal. They would all get a chuckle. By lunch time, I would have an email, maybe a gas can outside my office and maybe a few selected items taped to the door! Now I know this is good natured and sometimes students are much meaner. Remember, that they are students, and children, so they do not know the difference yet. Many times a student says things to another and the banter begins, but as students, they cannot tell when the other is actually hurt. This is not bullying by definition. If the student who receives the banter is in fear of harm, or denied their educational opportunity, it would be bullying, but this is a gray area. To claim bullying it must meet the criteria. Because your child doesn’t want to attend school doesn’t mean they were bullied. (Be very careful if you give in to this. Children quickly learn how to manipulate the system.)  We have the option of handling the discipline ourselves, which we do if a student is picked on, but being picked on isn’t necessarily bullying! If the law is broken we can turn it over to law enforcement which can result in a charges and fines etc. This would be if we found the case to in fact be bullying.

 

Today we have many students and parents who have claimed that their child is being bullied. Many times they are not. It may be an incident, and it may be something that does not fall into the definition. As a school we have to be very careful not to label a student a bully, until we have an investigation. Honestly it takes time to establish the facts and circumstances. We are often accused of not acting but please keep in mind we face potential damages if we discipline or charge when it isn’t correct. We have forms for students to report bullying and we take this matter seriously. We do investigate every one, but we have other pieces of our job to do as well. We will always attempt to solve it at the lowest level.

 

Instead of asking us to solve these issues I am offering another solution. We need the parents to eliminate the problems and here is how I believe we do it:

 

  1. Talk to your son or daughter and create some self- esteem. They all have unique talents, so celebrate this. It lessens the chance that they would be a target and aides in deflecting anything negative.
  2. Talk to your students about defending others who are being bullied or picked on. Stand up and be firm at the risk of being a target themselves as this will create a friendship or bond, and the bully will see that it isn’t accepted.
  3. Talk to your student about never picking on someone or joking at someone’s expense. It isn’t funny unless everyone is laughing.  Would they like the things being said, or done, to themselves. Tell them to look at this from both sides before they engage, and never repeat a rumor.
  4. Sometimes we will need some thick skin, as we aren’t always going to be liked or accepted by everyone, but be happy with who we are.

 

 

Together we can make this issue a thing of the past. I also am aware that we are blessed with parents who care, which means we do get involved, but let’s solve problems rather than identify them.

Until next time,

Joel Bickford