In Tooele County, a chorus of anti-bullying voices is rising to fever pitch, from parents and children fed up with several years of perceived indifference by the school district.
I can understand other parents’ frustration. Several years ago, I was a mother grappling with a similar situation. My then-sixth grade son’s school had an anti-bullying policy in place, but I felt helpless and given the run-around when I called the school to complain that a student was calling him names on the bus.
“The kids need to work it out among themselves,” I was told. They needed proof. My son should sit close enough so the bus driver could intervene.
I tried to coach my son on ways to handle conflict with his tormentor. Eventually, the situation changed. Maybe the bully lost interest. Or my son sat somewhere else on the bus. At any rate, to my relief, the name-calling stopped.
Today, my son barely remembers that incident from years ago. Other students are not so lucky. Many allegedly face bullying on a daily basis. For them, we must seek solutions, and fast.
The school district has responded by offering a stricter, more specific policy. (“District hopes policy will help stop bullying,” Feb. 13) One that, if implemented, will give children the protection they deserve.
Today, concerned parents and school officials are standing at a crossroads. Parents have thrown down the gauntlet, and the school district is offering an olive branch.
Here’s a first step: Parents must stop taking potshots at the schools. This is not a battle we should be waging at each other. It will take a concerted effort by parents and schools to come up with solutions. Parents, we must be good examples to our own kids. We must show them that civility is the path to a better community. Only then can we truly effect a change that can help our kids.
Not that schools are off the hook. Just as parents need to give the schools another chance, the schools need to validate parents’ concerns. That is, staff members must assist parents through a simple, straightforward process, which the new policy appears to address.
Secondly, parents, if your child is struggling at school or with their peers, the solution might not simply be to protect them from the undesirable situation.
As parents, it’s tempting to cry foul at every perceived slight towards our kids. We can give them something even longer-lasting. We can encourage them to seek opportunities to build their self-confidence, a process years in the making.
The same son above used to be painfully shy. He hated getting up in front of people, like singing or talking. When he was in sixth grade, he made a choice that has changed his life for the better. He decided to run for student government. Since then, he’s blossomed from a painfully shy boy to sophomore class president and show choir bass. My theory is, as he’s gotten more involved, he’s grown in self-confidence, making him less of a target for bullies.
Finally, again through our example, we need to teach our kids to stand up for others, befriend the friendless, and include the excluded. Just as a pack mentality emboldens bullies, a circle of kindness can weaken their influence.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing consultant and an award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her at www.TreasuredStories.net.