Jay Harris, Assistant Superintendent of Raymore-Peculiar Schools, and Kristel Barr, Director of Student Services at Ray-Pec presented a “Bullying Prevention Update” to the Board of Education at the Administrative Services Building Thursday night. The purpose of the presentation was to inform the Board what the School District is doing, as well as what they will be doing, to prevent and address bullying in the school system.
Before the presentation, public comments were given on the subject. Jeffrey Adams of Raymore stated to the Board that he wished to see self-defense declared as something that is not punishable. He said that in the case of a physical altercation, a victim should be able to defend himself without the threat of punishment from authority. He also stated that there should be more policies for younger students and that there has not been enough done to generate a culture of peace and safety in the classrooms.
Tonya Long, a current candidate for the Raymore-Peculiar School Board in the April 8 election, donned a t-shirt that read “CONCERNED LOCAL PARENTS” as she expressed the need for parents to be more involved in the school’s happenings.
“If you don’t involve parents, you’re going to fail in everything you do,” Long told the Board.
As Jay Harris began the presentation, he expressed to the Board that bullying is an issue in every school across America and Raymore-Peculiar is not exempt. He stated that there must be an “on-going dialogue” about bullying in order to make Ray-Pec a safer school for children. He also made it clear that the school district’s goal is to foster a culture where dignity and respect are non-negotiable marks of the classroom.
Bullying was defined by Barr and Harris as behavior that is (1) aggressive, (2) aimed at creating an imbalance of power, and (3) repeated or potentially repeatable.
Harris explained a four-step approach to bullying prevention that the district will look to implement starting at the present. The four steps are education, prevention, reporting, and response.
Education was explained as gaining awareness of the issues at the school staff level, with the students, and around the community. Prevention consists of creating the right environment in the classroom, providing anti-bullying curriculum, and teaching proper character. Reporting involves providing multiple avenues for calling out to authority about a bullying problem and providing victims with anonymity. Finally, the response step was spoken of as created a systematic approach to handling bullying complaints, involving parents, and following up on issues.
Cyber bullying, a by-product of social media, was heavily discussed as well. Barr stated that there are currently over 400 social media sites and the district is planning on providing information to parents to help them keep track of what their children are doing online.
After the prevention methods were outlined, Barr presented several pieces of data for the Board and attendees of the meeting to observe. This data is available below.
Finally, the actual program that will be implemented for effective reporting of bullying was displayed. Quick Tips, the program, allows for anyone to go online and report a bullying incident. The advantage of this program, as Harris explained, is the feature that allows a reporter to remain anonymous. Harris stated that this tool gives administration an opportunity to intervene sooner. An e-mail report will be sent to the principal of the selected school each time a tip is submitted.
As the Board asked Harris and Barr questions, it became clear that the anonymity option is less likely to garner desired results.
“The more detail there is…the more likely we can respond [effectively],” said Superintendent Kari Monsees. Monsees also said that the process will take more family involvement, as the school only has a child for seven hours each day and families have much more time to hear from and influence the student.
School Board President Kim York expressed her approval of the program, saying that it will allow administration to spot trends and bullying themes much easier.
The Quick Tips program is expected to be ready for use in early April.