Task force hears numerous ideas to reduce bullying in schools

Focusing on restorative justice, social and emotional health of students and early childhood learning were some of the ideas touted Tuesday to address bullying behavior.

Educators and others discussed ways to reduce bullying at the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying, which met in Garden City at Horace Good Middle School.

“We’re starting to come together,” said Rick Ginsberg, task force co-chair and dean of the School of Education at Kansas University. The group, charged with making recommendations to the State Board of Education in December, will next meet Aug. 5 in Salina.

Several young people from McPherson wrote the task force about the problems of students suffering depression from cyber bullying and physical bullying.

One 13-year-old wrote that perhaps people would understand the affects of bullying “by having them imagine that they or their kid was getting bullied and hurting so bad that they to wanted to hurt/kill themself.”

Beverly Benton, a mental health consultant at Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Center with Dodge City USD 443, told the task force that bullying among pre-schoolers is more common than most people think.

“Early childhood is the time to spend more effort and intervention,” Benton said.

Benton says teachers should try to figure out the reasons a child shows bullying behavior.

In addition to providing input to the bullying panel, Task Force member Lori Blake urged parents and education advocates to provide input during a statewide listening tour on early childhood services in Kansas. The tour, conducted by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, Kansas State Department of Education and other agencies, is meeting in Newton on Thursday and Atchison and Basehor-Linwood next week. Here is a link to the tour.

“Your feedback is very important to what the Cabinet is doing,” said Blake, who is also KASB president-elect and a member of the Southeast of Saline USD 306 board.

Adriana Holguin, a migrant education program advocate at the Southwest Plains Regional Center in Sublette, surveyed some of the families she works with and found their children said they had been bullied due to their ethnicity, language, economic circumstances and appearance. The students said they wanted those who exhibit bullying behavior to be held accountable for their actions, she said.

Daniel Minde, a seventh-grade history teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Liberal, said restorative justice helps teachers bring the bully and victim together to work on moving forward. He said social/emotional teaching should be part of every school and every grade level.

Kristen Dolen, assistant principal at Eisenhower Middle School and Ron Orsak, a principal at Cheney Middle School, said every student needs to be safe in school but added that not all bad behavior is bullying.

The state’s legal definition of bullying is any intentional written, verbal, electronic or physical act or threat that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that creates an intimidating or abusive education environment for a student or staff member.

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