by Lynn Meredith
A seven-person committee of social workers and administrators from Kaneland schools presented its findings on the policies and procedures in place to handle harassment and bullying to the School Board at its meeting on Monday.
It found that the policies at the elementary level were uniform and communicated well to staff, community members and parents.
“The elementary schools felt very strongly that they were being pro-active and preventative,” Diane McFarlin said. “They were proactive in looking at unstructured time on playgrounds and at lunch. The lunchroom monitors were looking for bullying and harassment situations, so that it wasn’t just the teachers.”
The committee agreed that further training of staff and lunchroom monitors in what to look for, how to intervene and what is expected of them is the next step.
As students get older, the types of bullying and harassment escalate. Incidents of cyberbullying become more common. Facebook, e-mail, texting and instant messaging are opportunities for youths to bully each other.
“It’s very difficult to monitor. One of the things we found very difficult in some of the technology harassment that is coming in is happening outside our jurisdiction and comes through our system and is showing up in discipline issues,” Renee Grisch said. “We have to unravel all the information and find out that it happened over some horrible text message. Kids bring all of the emotion into school with them.”
At the high school, a Gay/Straight Alliance pilot program that promotes tolerance through facts and sharing of personal experiences has been established.
“Kids are putting out statistics to other kids regarding what harassment and bullying is. By doing that, we are piloting a prevention program that is working from the inside out,” Grisch said.
The committee recommends further staff development to consistently monitor, intervene and prevent bullying and harassment.