UPDATE: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
My original blog yesterday on the way bullying is being handled in Erie, Illinois, is definitely touching people on both sides of this issue.
I contacted K. Bradley Cox, the superintendent of the Erie School District, and here is his response to Monday night’s vote and the policy in place at Erie Elementary School:
“On Monday night, the Erie Board voted 2-5 to uphold the Materials Selection Committee’s recommendation to use GLSEN instructional materials and Parr’s Family Book as instructional materials in Erie’s Elementary School guidance program. Since the motion did not pass, these instructional materials will not be used in the future.
Students, parents/guardians, and Erie Elementary School staff members need to work together to prevent bullying.
Illinois law requires a school district to notify the parent or guardian of a child who engages in aggressive behavior,
including bullying (105 ILCS 5/10-20.14). Bullying can be pushing, shoving, hitting, and spitting, as well as name
calling, picking on, making fun of, laughing at, and excluding someone. Bullying causes pain and stress to victims and
is never justified or excusable as “kids being kids”, “just teasing”, or any other rationalization. The victim is never
responsible for being a target of bullying.
At Erie Elementary we:
1. Value student differences and treat others with respect.
2. Not become involved in bullying incidents or be a bully.
3. Be aware of the school’s policies and support system with regard to bullying.
4. Report honestly and immediately ALL incidents of bullying to a faculty member.
5. Be alert in places around the school where there is less adult supervision such as bathrooms, corridors, and
6. Support students who have been or are subjected to bullying.
7. Talk to teachers, counselors, and parents about concerns and issues regarding bullying.
8. Work with other students and faculty to help the school deal with bullying effectively.
9. Encourage teachers to discuss bullying issues in the classroom.
10. Provide a good role model for younger students and support them if bullying occurs.
11. Participate fully and contribute to assemblies dealing with bullying.”
I will stand by the fact that bullying is a problem and that you can NEVER have too much material to stop bullying.
I also want to make something perfectly clear: I have NO problem with kids praying in school or on school grounds. That should be permitted FOR THE STUDENTS THAT WANT TO PARTICIPATE.
Additionally, I think every high school in this country from Mississippi to West Virginia to California to Illinois should have Gay-Straight Alliances.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 12:29 p.m.
Gay. Black. Overweight. Asian. New to the area. Unpopular. Short. Unpretty. Those are just some of the reasons that kids are bullied at school, at home, and online. This is a subject that touches me deeply and I hope you continue reading and help me in this fight to make life easier for our children, our future generations.
It’s proven that one in five students are the victims of bullying and it’s most prevalent in middle school.
Two weeks ago, 15-year-old Tori Swoape of Bloomington, Indiana, died after asphyxiating herself. Her friends say she was verbally and physically bullied, but school Principal Jeffry Henderson says, “We have talked to students and teachers and we have scoured social-media sites. We could find no indication bullying was a factor in this.”
13-year old Rachel Ehmke killed herself after her parents say a group of girls at her Kasson-Mantorville middle school in Minnesota consistently called Rachel names, spread rumors about her, and defaced her books and locker.
And, in April, Jack Reese, a gay 17-year-old from Utah took his own life after allegedly being subjected to repeated anti-gay bullying at school.
Are there more teen suicides these days caused by bullying? It’s possible. It’s very likely that we’re hearing more about these sad and unfortunate incidents because they should not be happening! More and more schools across the country are taking a pro-active stance to ensure the safety of our kids when they’re away from home.
However, others like the aforementioned Indiana school and a local Whiteside County, Illinois, school seem to be closing their eyes or turning their backs on the kids without more including more anti-bullying material.
Last night, the Erie School Board voted 5-2 to ban inclusive, educational, and research-based resources and materials that would make all of its schools, elementary, middle, and high, a safer place for students.
This includes “Ready, Set, Respect”, a nationally-recognized anti-bullying curriculum that is used to respond to student harassment, name-calling, and biased language in schools; the book, “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, which helps children understand that families come in all shapes and sizes and that family is important to children; and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network), the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.
A recent online petition states that this all started last month after a school counselor responded to the student harassment he saw at school. He proposed using nationally-recognized anti-bullying curriculum and the children’s book on family diversity and the materials went through the district’s formal review process and were recommended for use by a committee made of parents and educators.
It also states that after a small group of people held a prayer vigil outside of a school board meeting to protest of the LGBT-inclusive materials, the superintendent unilaterally banned the materials, and any resource or activity endorsed by GLSEN.
Honestly, I’m very saddened by this decision of the Erie School Board and its superintendent K. Bradley Cox. I’m even more shocked at this outcome because the Erie School District has been dealing with a hazing incident and charges allegedly committed by athletes at Erie High School.
How can you possibly think that an anti-bullying program is not needed in your district? Whether or not the hazing incident is credible, that’s enough of a reason to have open dialogue and incorporate these resources for students so that they feel safe when they’re under your supervision.
Look at these beautiful faces.
That’s 17-year-old Tyler Long of Georgia, and 11-year-old Ty Smalley from Oklahoma. They are two youngsters that committed suicide and are featured in “Bully”, a documentary that’s currently playing in theaters across the country. It focuses on the problem of school bullying in those two states, along with Texas, Mississippi, and Sioux City, Iowa, the fourth largest school district in that state, in 2009 and 2010.
Schools are not alone in turning a blind eye to bullying.
Heather Wilson, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, is opposed to the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide LGBT students with civil rights protections against bullying “as those that currently apply to students based on race and gender.” In an April debate, Wilson said, “that particular act is so broad it would actually punish children and say that it’s prohibited to express an opinion with respect to homosexuality in the schools. I just think that’s wrong and it’s a violation of the First Amendment.”
People, please talk to your school districts. The people that don’t think bullying is a problem are very vocal. We need to raise our voices and concerns, too, especially in Erie, Illinois.