Lake County takes on bulliesSticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me. We all know the saying, but for a victim of bullying, it’s not that easy.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me. We all know the saying, but for a victim of bullying, it’s not that easy.
Last month, the Northland Foundation announced a $5,000 grant to Lake County schools to support district-wide training and raise awareness of bullying. The efforts will include training for teachers, para-professionals, bus drivers, and administrators.
“Everyone will be speaking the same language,” said Pat Driscoll, principal of Two Harbors’ Minnehaha Elementary School, meaning that everyone will have a similar understanding of the issue. “We want kids to feel safe and cared about.”
The district has already had a bullying policy, but last November, Gov. Mark Dayton signed Executive Order 11-33, calling for the establishment of a task force to address bullying in Minnesota schools. In many schools that meant increased focus on creating a positive environment for kids. The Lake County district has been “working on the overall climate in the schools,” said Driscoll.
“Bullying causes severe suffering and harm to the children, who are its victims; and we must do more to stop it,” Dayton said when signing the Executive Order, going on to say children and parents in Minnesota should have confidence that their schools are safe places for learning and are free of harm or intimidation.
The order was issued in the wake of a rash of suicides in the state’s biggest school district, Anoka-Hennepin, and allegations that some of the students had taken their lives because of on-going bullying and harassment. It was a wake-up call that no school district wants to experience.
Appointees on the governor’s task force developed a four-page definition that clarifies bullying, but there still is confusion about what bullying is, Driscoll said. Bullying is characterized by an imbalance of power that exists between the parties, with one party being targeted on an ongoing basis, she said.
“I think the whole state is concerned about bullying,” said Driscoll. Lake County is no exception, but there was no money for training and awareness, so the district applied for the Northland Foundation grant.
A committee selected speaker and trainer Jim Jelinske of Creative Education Services, who has presented workshops and training on Violence Prevention and Bullying since 1990. He will be speaking to teachers and staff on Aug. 29, and will return Oct. 22-23 to speak to students in Silver Bay and Two Harbors. He will speak to parents in both communities in the evenings. Grades K-10 will be required to attend the presentations.
“We don’t have a lot of bullying,” said Driscoll, but surveys of students have shown that when it occurs, younger students are more reluctant to talk about it and that it tends to happen in areas where children have less supervision than in a classroom setting—on the playground and on buses. Children will be encouraged to go to adults when bullying occurs.
“On the playground and [in] the lunch room they will go to a [para-professional], in the class they’ll go to the teacher,” Driscoll said. Principals will investigate big issues when they emerge.
The Governor’s task force issued its final report Aug. 1, making several recommendations including revisions to legislation. Currently, legislation related to bullying is a scant 37 words. The final report can be found on the Minnesota Department of Education website at http://education.state.mn.us.