Bully task force listens

/ 1 May 2012 / jennifer

Danielle Cintron, St. Cloud Times, May 1, 2012 –

Students share bullying issues

Students, parents and teachers of the St. Cloud school district agree on one important point: Bullying in the schools must end.

As part of the Governor’s Task Force for the Prevention of Bullying, separate listening sessions are being held for students and adults. Such sessions took place Tuesday in St. Cloud.

Gov. Mark Dayton created the task force to examine best practices and policies that currently exist to prevent bullying. The panel, after attending six or seven sessions in different districts, will provide recommendations to the governor and the Legislature.

“I’m humbled by the honesty and openness of these people,” task force co-chair Curt Carpenter said. “One child hurt is too much, and I know that sounds cliche, but when I’m sitting next to a parent who’s child is being bullied, I know this to be true.”

Bullying, according to stopbullying.gov, is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, and the behavior is often repeated, or has the potential to be repeated. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

At the student session, five Apollo High School students and one Tech High School student explained the reality of bullying at their schools.

“Side comments and gossiping are a problem,” said Kayla Hanzsek-Brill, a sophomore at Tech. “I’ve seen cyberbullying as well, and how it can get extreme.”

The students also brought up threats, stereotyping, racial and ethnic prejudices, rumor-mills and cyberbullying on Facebook and Twitter.

“Sometimes students can be very smart about the way they bully,” Carpenter said. “The subtle sarcasm and nuances have a cumulative effect on a child. The weight of it can crush them. Technology makes (bullying) happen faster, and it goes to a broader audience.”

The students also pointed out that not everything that is reported to a teacher or an adult is dealt with. The students cited events of bullying they personally informed a teacher about, but they didn’t see action aken.

“I think (teachers and administration) are trying, but they’re not taking the right approach,” Hanzsek-Brill said. “I hope we can find a better technique to break bullying down.”

At the adult session, parents, educators and relatives of students who were bullied expressed their concerns, most of which aligned with the students’ views. Several who were in attendance are currently dealing with a student who is being bullied and didn’t want to return to school.

“I thought it was a very positive and empowering to hear the families,” said Andrea Coulter, a teacher at Clearview Elementary School. “I think it gave them a lot of hope. Our district is doing the right thing by having this session. There’s a lot of good that we do. We just need to get the parents involved.”

Some key steps outlined in the second session were to inform the community and not just the students on preventing bullying, to create a recognition in the schools to remedy the situation and to empower the students to come forward if they see bullying.

“My hope is that we can educate everyone at an early age,” Hanzsek-Brill said. “I hope our suggestions are taken seriously.”