New superintendent takes bullying by horns
Hernando TodayThe issue: Bullying in our public schools. Our opinion: Greater emphasis on bullying education and new appeals process for parents should help remedy conflicts.
Published: April 24, 2010
Published: April 24, 2010
Stacy Walsh is sick and tired of her autistic son being bullied in school, and she's not going to take it anymore.
After trying without success to have the bullying investigated and stopped by the principal of her child's school, Walsh is joining forces with other parents of bullied children in Hernando County public schools.
She's also taken her case to newly installed Superintend Brian Blavatt, who has come up with a new process and options when complaints of bullying are lodged.
Several cases of bullying have been highlighted in recent articles in Hernando Today after frustrated parents contacted the newspaper because they weren't getting answers from administrators in the school district.
They felt that nothing was being done to stop the bullying of their child. The few answers they did get were not satisfactory, and the bullying continued. At least one couple is considering suing the school district.
Their cries for help were being ignored.
Walsh is banding together with those parents to talk about bullying issues in the school district. She says she gets calls and e-mails almost daily from parents interested in her cause.
After meeting with Blavatt, she's optimistic about his proposed changes to procedures and for increased awareness of bullying. The new superintendent seems to understand well the challenges in dealing with bullying and is serious about nipping it in the bud throughout the district.
"One of the things we have to do is make ourselves more accessible to parents," Blavatt told Hernando Today. "First, we have to identify the concern and make sure parents know we are addressing them and, second, there should always be an appeals process to bring problems to the next level."
That would go a long way toward solving the bullying complaints in some of our public schools.
Before, if your child was being bullied at school but the principal decided it wasn't really bullying or didn't conduct a thorough investigation, there was little more parents could do to remedy the abuse - short of hiring a lawyer or taking their child out of school.
The final verdict on bullying has been with the principal.
Even when angry parents took their case to a higher authority, the interim superintendent for example, little was done to investigate and remedy the bullying, the parents complained.
The principal had the final say.
That wasn't good enough for Walsh, who says her son has been bullied since he was in kindergarten, and it has progressively gotten worse.
Blavatt wants to increase bullying education and training for students and staff members throughout the district to better identify bullying and how to handle it.
We applaud those efforts.
Most importantly, the new process for bullying complaints gives parents the option to appeal the principal's decision - to take it all the way to the superintendent if need be. No child should be in fear of going to school because of threats of intimidation, verbal and physical abuse and/or isolation.
There should be a zero tolerance policy for any type of bullying. While determining who's a bully is not always a simple process, it should be a priority of educators.
Fear should not be part of a student's curriculum.