Monday, November 24, 2008

Conversation on Bullying

I was invited to attend a "Conversation on Bullying" yesterday at the Unitarian Meeting Hall here on the island. They were hosting a speaker, Pam Dell Fitzgerald, UW professor, clinical psychologist and island resident who was to present her well received series, "Positive Parenting".

How timely! I had never been to a Unitarian function before being prone to extra laziness on Sunday mornings but it was really nice gathering.

First, poor Pam had an unforeseen emergency and couldn't make it until basically the end. But, she was good enough to chat off-line with some parents and promise a rain check in January.

Instead of hearing from Pam, what we did get to do is have a wide, multi-generational discussion on bullying and parenting in general. I found it particularly touching to hear what folks in their 70's and 80's thought about the "kids these days". It was very insightful to hear some of the stories and suggestions but I mostly found that the grandparents were indeed just as confounded on how to help with bullying as they were when they were parents.

It is a big topic and we managed to whip through an hour and a half very quickly. I could tell there were some folks who had heard a lot of these stories before but to me it was novel. I should note that my parents are quite young and I did not really have a connection with either set of grandparents when young or as an adult so I found the stories very sweet and endearing.

One young parent brought up the fact that in her previous school district the bullying policy was literally in every classroom. That no one had any questions about what it was and if something went down the administration was on it quickly. That is not what is happening here.

The theory of "islandism" was brought up where everyone thinks everything is so darn wonderful and perfect that no one voices the ugly stuff. That folks then just say, "Oh that's just kids being kids."

It is true that the Bullying Policy should be easier to find and more readily available. I looked all through the school district website last week but never could find it. I had to e-mail a counselor who forwarded my request to the administration. Some one did call me personally which I thought was good but the policy should be easy not hard to find. She directed me to the Student Handbook where the bullying policy was buried at about page 20. Sigh....

See what I mean? The policy is only as good as the awareness and enforcement. I think I will push the school district to host a meeting for parents, teachers and staff with Pam next Spring. Judging by what the other parents had to say, the bullying issue is up front and center on many people's minds.

More updates to come on my latest windmill tilting.

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