Anya Tikka | Democrat
From left, Eldred School District Superintendent Robert Dufour, District Attorney James Farrell, and author and presenter Barbara Coloroso before the parent event at George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey.
Rooting out bullying behavior in schools
By Anya Tikka
ELDRED Although many think bullying is just a part of growing up, it just isn’t so, said author and lecturer Barbara Coloroso in her presentation at the Eldred Junior Senior High School the night before school started.
“We cannot ignore this anymore,” she said, referring to the many teen suicides and school shootings across the country that have been linked to relentless bullying.
District Attorney District Attorney James R. Farrell took it further in his opening remarks saying, “60 percent of those who are bullies in school end up behind the bars.”
Coloroso drew important distinctions between conflict versus bullying and teasing versus taunting. “In bullying, there’s a threat and intent to cause harm, and in teasing, the person doing the teasing stops the minute the other one seems upset,” she said.
“Ten people laughing, one crying, is bullying,” she added.
Eldred School District Superintendent Robert Dufour sent a letter to all parents but only a few came to the event of the internationally recognized bestselling author and expert. Coloroso has appeared on Dr. Phil, Oprah and the NY Times, and she has been counseling at schools in the aftermaths of teen suicides and school shootings.
Dufour has initiated a pro-active anti-bullying program that required all the faculty, staff, and aides to attend a day-long training given by Coloroso before the parent evening. “I’ve never seen any program that had everyone so engaged,” said Dufour after the day. “’We’ve had lots of positive feedback.”
Elementary School Principal Kathy Ryan agreed. High School Principal Scott Krebs who had read Coloroso’s bestselling book “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” said the school is committed to rooting out bullying.
The district has re-written its code of conduct, adding specific wording relating to bullying, and the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) advisor Zita E. Kurtzman-Yennie has been instructed to pay special attention to the issue.
Principals Ryan and Krebs both said character development is going to be part of everyday curriculum, while Superintendent Dufour commented the school is forming an Anti-bullying Task Force in an ongoing effort, and the Principals have been charged with reinforcing the training received. Police are only contacted in the most severe, repeat cases.
“We have also booked Ms. Coloroso to come to talk to the students sometime in October,” added Dufour. District Attorney Farrell has also been booked to give his presentation.
Coloroso said bullying or harassment is learned behavior, and pointed out many of the young kids today who are bullies take pleasure in others’ pain.
“It’s not a matter of somehow making these kids understand that they are causing pain,” she said.
Modern day bullying takes more sophisticated forms than the stereotypical physically stronger kid who steals another’s lunch. Today, cyberbullying or “bullying done using technology” is vicious and often done under the radar.
“The bullies are experts at changing their behavior in front of authorities,” explained Coloroso. She advised anyone who comes across threatening messages in cyberspace to “Stop, Copy, Block and Tell.”
After attending the Coloroso evening, parent Mary Paige Lange-Clouse said “I just came because I’m concerned over bullying in schools. If my two boys have difficulties, I want to be able to react. Barbara was excellent, I’m going to check the sites she recommended (on the web).”
Another parent, Michael Harripersad, commented, “I’m glad the school has taken a stand on this issue. It was a very good time (presentation.)”
Fifth grade teacher Maria Nealon attended both the day-long training and parent evening. Her opinion was, “It was probably one of the best trainings that I’ve been to. Barbara gives practical advice on bullying… I’m going to review the behaviors with my class.”
More information is available at the school website ecs.schoolwires.com/jshs/site/default.asp where there are links to PBIS and the School Code of Conduct, and at Coloroso’s website www.kidsareworthit.com.
Bullying: DA gets involved
By Anya Tikka
MONTICELLO District Attorney James A. Farrell has also taken the initiative to root out bullying, offering to give a presentation to all the schools in the county.
“We can’t pay lip service to the issue,” he said. “Kids need to understand there are consequences to their actions, good and bad.”
Farrell added that New York State recently changed the laws concerning bullying, making it mandatory for schools to keep records and to report bullying incidents, and that behavior outside school that affects the students at school is now also a school concern.
In his presentation DA Farrell talks about the legal consequences of repeat bullying. He said under-16 teens can be taken to family court over repeated incidents and get a record, although they cannot be tried through the criminal system. “We need to get the bystanders to speak up,” said DA Farrell.
“Only a small percentage of kids are bullies, the rest are bystanders who do nothing. So what if they get it next if they speak up… I did, I didn’t care.”
Deputies Sergeant Louis Alvarez and Corporal Cheryl Crumley all came to the district training meeting. School Resource Officer Crumley said she gets referred the most severe cases and cannot comment on numbers, nor does the department keep records about it. Corporal Crumley goes to schools to speak to those who have been caught, trying to impress them with the severity of their actions and where they lead.
The first of DA Farrell’s presentation in Roscoe was canceled due to flooding, and it’s is now re-scheduled for October. Livingston Manor has already had their presentation, Eldred has already booked and the DA’s office is booking other schools.
Roscoe Central School Principal Tammy Mangus explained the very proactive anti-bullying program in place at RCS, in addition to the yearly visit from the DA. It includes the PATHS weekly program with the social worker for pre-K to 6th grade, monthly “Slick Tracy” of Project Northland (anti-alcohol education) for grades 7-8 and a special DARE program for 5th graders. DARE now has a focus on bullying as well.
For 7-12th graders, emphasis is on character education every day with the help for the social worker and counselor.
“We need to recognize it,” said Mangus, “we need to teach kids to be kind.”
At any sign of trouble, Mangus goes to the classroom to show a presentation of what can happen to bullies who get caught and brought to justice.