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  • Aggressive Behaviors, Bullying Unacceptable

    Posted by Sandra Lyon, Ed.D. on 9/17/2018 1:00:00 PM

    Dr. Sandra Lyon

    The topic of “bullying” is at the forefront of parents’, students’ and community members’ minds and hearts on a regular basis.  It is something that, we, as educators, not only think about but grapple with each and every day.  School safety, overall, weighs heavily on all of us who work at schools and districts, and our number one goal is to do everything we can to ensure that our students are educated in a safe and secure environment. 


    On a daily basis we face the challenge of addressing the actions of students who are mean to their peers – physically and/or verbally. As we deal with administering appropriate consequences for these types of behaviors, we also have to make sure the behaviors themselves are defined appropriately. The term “bully” or “bullying” is used pervasively, and it is important to discern the difference between single actions of aggression and actual bullying, which has very specific characteristics.  Bullying is defined as an aggressive act and must include an imbalance of power and repetition.  That power can be physical or social.  A student who engages in a verbal or physical altercation with another student does not necessarily constitute bullying nor does one or two incidents in one year and an incident in a subsequent year meet the definition bullying. Let’s be clear: neither an isolated incident nor pervasive or repetitive aggressive behaviors are acceptable. However, both the punitive and behavioral modification measures taken to address the actions may be substantially different.


    Bullying itself has become a larger issue of concern and more widespread through the expansion of social media throughout our society with our youngest subscribers using and abusing it the most. When I last served as a school principal, Facebook was in its nascent stages, and school administrators were just beginning to grapple with toxic posts and text messages.  I remember how dreadful it was to have a student devastated by posts made by peers that were hateful and cruel and to try and work to have things taken down or to get parents to monitor their children’s screen time.   Now, in addition to that monitoring, we need for our parents and guardians to model appropriate social media usage and postings for their children. A recent incident that involved a physical assault on one of our students escalated on social media and in the mainstream media to something that made thousands of people extraordinarily angry and frustrated; the result was staff members receiving many violent and threatening emails, posts and phone calls.  While we understand the chord this incident struck for people, modeling that retaliation, threats and hateful speech are the right response just does not serve our young people well.  


    As time has gone on, bullying through texting and social media posts has increased dramatically, and we as educators are doing all we can to work with our students, parents and community members to combat these activities, and, at the same time, provide our students with the tools and skills they need to make better decisions. While we know that while disciplinary measures are both prudent and necessary, we also know that these actions alone do not change behaviors.


    We are constantly working to expand and enhance what we are doing to work with our students so they can learn how to make better decisions. There are many programs and strategies in place both district wide and at the site level that are helping to make strides in this arena. A few examples include:


    • A new elementary “Second Step” Anti-bullying curriculum (five lessons each for all K-5 students)
    • Ninth grade lesson presented by The Center in Palm Springs
    • Full time counselors at several elementary sites
    • Conflict mediation with students and parents
    • Playworks Structured Recess program
    • Coach Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” and pillars of character
    • Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS)
    • Reflective circles/class meetings to build positive cultures
    • Staff training focused on identifying bully warning signs, mediating responses and conflict resolution strategies
    • School wide assemblies and kindness campaigns
    • PLUS (Peer Leaders Uniting Students)

    There is much work to be done, and the bottom line is that no child should have to endure any physical or verbal abuse from another student or students. It is important that our parents and guardians remind their children that if they “see something, say something” in regards to safety threats (either real or perceived) regarding themselves or someone else on campus. If they don’t feel comfortable reporting what they are witnessing to a trusted adult on campus, they can also do it through our anonymous reporting system found at www.sprigeo.com. Reports filed here are sent and responded to by district and site officials immediately.


    Our ultimate goal is that each of our campuses is free from single aggressive behaviors and/or repetitive bullying behaviors, and we will continue to work with our students, staff and parents to monitor, intervene and teach our students to be kind to one another and that being mean or cruel through verbal or physical attacks is unacceptable. We hope we can count on your continued support.


    See you next month!

    Sandra Lyon, Ed.D.

    Superintendent of Schools

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