Sunday, May 2, 2010

Falmouth schools target bullying |

The article below gives me hope that Falmouth Public Schools are going to make a stronger effort put a stop to bullying. I think the new bill that was signed into legislation making it "mandatory to report and investigate all instances of bullying at schools" will finally open some eyes.

Sierra and Jared both had their share of experiences with bullies, but Jared has tolerated it since First Grade. Unfortunately, there were times when I reported it to the school and NOTHING happened. I'll never forget having to drive him to school in First Grade because of the bullies on the bus who kicked him off the seats and into the aisles. I reported it and was told Jared needed to sit in the front of the bus if that was happening in the back?!?!? Um...HELLO!?!?!?!?! The BULLIES needed to sit in the front of the bus!!!!! UGH!!! I drove him to ensure his safety, even though I had a newborn and 2 year old at home. Steve finally talked to the bus driver and HE put a kibosh on it telling the kids, "No one gets picked on on my bus". Through the years, Jared has put up with a LOT because of his size. I've always taught him to hold his head up and that "mean people stink". If he were measured by the size of his heart and not the size of his body, he'd be a giant. I think through the years, teachers and Principals are opening their eyes and I look forward to the change that will come. I for one have a NO TOLERANCE policy for it and offer my warning to kids who bully my children:" I WILL report it. Period." Thankfully, things are finally starting to improve. The Assistant DA was right: Bullies make themselves " feel better while making others feel bad, and that is SICK".

On September 9, 1981 my cousin died because of bullies. They harassed him mercilessly. At the tender age of 13, he took his own life. Bullies have been around forever, and have been tolerated for too long. It is high time the power be taken out of their hands. This is a very touchy subject for me. I look forward to the prosecution of bullies. I do hope they will get some counseling that will help to turn them around before they become parents who are bullies, who then will start the cycle all over again.

Here's the article:


Falmouth schools target bullying |

"When Grace Haslett's friend wrote hurtful things about her on Facebook, the 13-year-old Falmouth student said she was crushed.

Grace, an eighth-grader at the Lawrence School, recognized the behavior as a form of bullying and said she's decided to delete her Facebook account until she's older.

But student bullying has caused other victims, such as 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, to take their own lives following months of relentless harassment at the hands of classmates.

It is part of a disturbing trend called "cyberbullying," in which teens use Internet technology and cell phones to harass their peers. No longer confined to cafeterias or school playgrounds, bullies use text messaging and social networking websites to barrage their targets on an around-the-clock basis.

"It happens all the time here and no one does enough to stop it," Grace said.

But with bullying in the limelight after the suicides of Prince and 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover of Springfield last year, legislators and school officials are taking notice.

The state Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed anti-bullying legislation Thursday and Gov. Deval Patrick has indicated he will sign

it into law this week. If signed into law, the legislation will increase the level of involvement among school officials and parents where bullying is concerned.

State Sen. Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, spoke to the Times just before Thursday's vote and said the bill makes it mandatory to report and investigate all instances of bullying at schools and school events. Also, if bullying occurs in cyberspace, school officials will be able to punish perpetrators if the behavior carries over to the classroom and negatively impacts the school environment.

The legislation also requires parents of the alleged bullies and victims to be notified when there is an incident, and school districts must create bullying prevention plans.

"It's critical to build the commitment of the community so bullying will not be tolerated," O'Leary said.

Some school districts, such as the Martha's Vineyard Public Schools, instituted anti-bullying policies years ago, Supt. James Weiss said.

Two Vineyard schools made headlines last month when a group of high school girls allegedly hit and threatened a 16-year-old classmate with promises to "cut her," according to a report in the Boston Herald.

Another bullying incident occurred at an Oak Bluffs school at about the same time.

Weiss confirmed the incidents but would not discuss details, except to say the bullies were suspended in accordance with the school district's policies.

"Do kids in our school bully? Yes. Are we addressing those things? Certainly. Is it happening more now than in the past? No," Weiss said. "The whole notion of bullying is much more hypersensitive now, so every time there's an incident it's much more escalated."

In Falmouth, teachers are transforming a 10-year-old event called "No Guff Day" into a weeklong anti-bullying campaign involving the entire community.

All students sign a pledge and vow not to speak or text anything negative about anyone. "No Guff" signs are plastered all over the schools, and businesses have joined in as well this year.

Falmouth selectmen even signed an official declaration this year in recognition of "No Guff Week."

Alan Kazarian, guidance director of the Falmouth school system, said the most significant progress occurs when students communicate with each other. That's why teachers arranged for Falmouth High School basketball players — fresh off an exhilarating run in the state tournament — to speak with younger students regarding respect and tolerance for one another, Kazarian said.

But a speech from Jennifer McNulty, a Cape and Islands assistant district attorney who prosecutes juvenile cases, proved to be one of the most effective presentations of the week.

When McNulty asked a group of about 75 seventh- and eighth-graders whether they had cell phones, nearly all hands shot up in the air. Of those students, most of them had texting and camera phone capabilities.

A handful of students said they can access the Internet via their phones, and some admitted they routinely accept friend requests on Facebook from people they don't know, simply because they find the unknown person attractive.

After advising students about safe Internet practices, McNulty delivered a stern warning and list of consequences for kids who think bullying is acceptable.

"If you continue to be a bully you will be prosecuted because what you are doing is making yourself feel better while making others feel bad, and that is sick," McNulty said. "For those of you who think this is funny, you're the ones who I'll see in court soon."

McNulty gave a speech earlier this week at a different school, and said one student was so affected that he essentially "confessed" to McNulty about being a bully and asked what he could do to avoid future criminal charges.

Jared Talbot and Connor Moulton, both 14, said McNulty's speech stunned many of their classmates, and Jared said the silence during her speech was evidence that it "took a toll on a bunch of the kids who are bullies." Both students said they have been the target of bullies in the past, adding they are thankful for "No Guff Week" because it lets the entire community know making fun of others is not acceptable.

"The best way to stop it is by talking about it," Connor said. "


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