An anti-bullying training for parents and community members will be held at John F. Kennedy High School on Wednesday, Nov. 14. Principal Chad Sweitzer hopes it will help make parents aware of how they can support school staff at home by knowing what to look for when it comes to bullying.
Sweitzer said he has seen a huge increase in bullying through technology, on the Internet on Facebook and Twitter and via texting. He said many times the bullying will occur over a weekend with one student saying something about another on Facebook, and come Monday morning rumors are flying. “We always try to bring the kids in and sit them down face-to-face with some of our students that do peer mediation or with our counselors on campus and try to work out the problems,” he said.
Sweitzer would like to see their auditorium, which can hold about 450, filled to capacity for this training.
The training is part of a district-wide crackdown on bullying that began in June 2011 when the Sacramento City Unified School District’s Board of Education approved a new anti-bullying policy aimed at reducing incidents of bullying on campus and in cyberspace.
According to Sheila Self, bullying prevention specialist for SCUSD, this policy spells out rules and regulations that reflect changes that have occurred in California law as it relates to bullying.
Additionally, she said there is a greater understanding of the health consequences of bullying. She said students who are bullied have three times as many headaches and twice as many sleep problems and stomachaches, plus feelings of depression and anxiety.
“We’re beginning to understand that it’s not just about the right of passage, but that bullying has a direct effect on to our health and in terms of feeling safe at school on our academic performance,” Self said.
Sweitzer said last year’s anti-bullying information session was well-attended.
“The parents asked a lot of questions, I think they even learned a thing or two, and learned what the responses can be when the students are being bullied and who they can turn for help on the school campus,” he said.
One person very happy SCUSD is stepping up to provide anti-bullying training to parents is Pocket resident Maria Sullivan. She worked last year with Self to bring a similar anti-bullying program to Genevieve Didion K-8 after both her children – now 4th and 7th graders – were the victims of bullying.
Sullivan said programs like these has helped her have the tools she needs to teach her children how to handle bullies. “(My son) thought it was his fault because kids didn’t like him, and now he has the skills that he doesn’t think it’s his fault and if he doesn’t think it’s right, he knows he has the right to say something,” she said.
Additionally, Sullivan said anti-bullying programs also help teach parents what to do if it’s their child who is the bully. Most parents, who have a child who bullies, don’t know it. “It’s not because you’re a bad parent, it’s just that you don’t understand and they don’t understand it’s not okay,” she said. “Sheila’s program gives the kids that skill on both sides of the fence.”
So what will parents who attend the anti-bullying program at JFK High School learn?
Self said they will learn a number of things about bullying, including just what the scope of the problem is, myths, what SCUSD’s anti-bullying policy is, and how to report bullying. “Parents will get a really good sense of both sides of the coin – if your child is actually bullying others or if your child is being targeted,” she said. “We are very much promoting working with both students in order to remediate the bullying on campus.”
In addition, Self hopes parents who attend the anti-bullying training become confident communicators with their kids about bullying. “I think becoming more hopeful that this isn’t something that has to continue, that we can take action to stop it when we see it, and that we can have safe school campuses where learning really can take place,” she said.
Sweitzer said the training promotes parental involvement, including the need to monitor students’ cell phones and Facebook pages. “As a high school student, I would imagine I wouldn’t want my parents looking at my Facebook page, but parents still need to be active participants in what’s going on in their kids’ lives and that’s a huge part of it,” he said.
And Sullivan said it’s important for parents to take part in an anti-bullying training like this to help them understand what their children are confronted with and how to offer support.
“Bullying is real and to protect your child so your child does not become a victim . . . we have to make sure they have the tools to succeed,” she says. “It’s important that parents step up and are there.”