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Lanesboro follow-up meeting regarding bullying


Fri, Jul 17th, 2009
Posted in Education

Concerned parents, faculty, and community members attended a special meeting on July 14th to further discuss the topic of bullying in the Lanesboro Public Schools. The issue spurred much debate and discussion at the last school board meeting on June 18, and the follow-up meeting was scheduled for the school to inform the public on their plans to address the issue, as well as opening the floor to suggestions and ideas from the public.

Jeff Boggs, Lanesboro Public Schools superintendent, said, "What we are discovering, or what seems to continue to happen, is we keep having these incidents. They come up, and we make some changes and then we have another incident. So we make some changes, and we have another incident. So what we want to do tonight is try and find some solutions to help us keep curbing those incidents or-I don't know if we'll ever get to a point where we'll stop it 100%. That would be a wonderful goal, but it seems we're having too many, and we need to do a better job in reigning these things in and getting things under control for lack of a better word."

This is not the first time the Lanesboro Public Schools have dealt with the issue of bullying. It was also brought up at a school board meeting in the spring of 2008, with a follow-up meeting held later that summer. James Semmen, elementary school principal, and Brett Clarke, high school principal, both shared some of the policy changes related to bullying that they made in the 2008-09 school year due to that follow-up meeting.

For the high school, changes included additional supervising in the lunchroom, six days of grant-funded staff training on positive intervention, and school-wide expectations on appropriate student behavior. Semmen reported some of the many changes in the middle school, including the use of two-way radios between playground supervisors and himself to better deal with bad behavior, going over the handbook thoroughly, the Principal Semmen actually joining the kindergarten-2nd graders and 5th-6th graders during their recess to better address behavior right on the spot.

The school also plans on initiating a new program entitled "Second Steps" for pre-school through eighth graders. The grant-funded program has been described as "very interactive," and staff left the training feeling inspired and motivated. The program will focus on three topics-empathy training, emotion management, and problem solving. The Second Steps program will begin this fall, and is expected to make a large difference in the school's bullying issue.

The floor then opened for parents and community members to ask questions and share their opinions and ideas on what the school can do to control the bullying.

One concerned mother called for a "zero tolerance" policy, with the child's third offense resulting in them getting pulled out of the school. Her suggestion was met with applause by some parents, who favored the strict guidelines. However, Principal Clarke noted that "equal isn't always fair," and having some latitude allowed the administration to give an appropriate punishment. "Every situation's different," he said.

Also discussed were implementing trained adult allies, staff who were highly trained and knowledgeable on how to deal with bullies and individuals that students could feel safe going to for help. However, some believed that the school's small size allowed each student to have at least one highly trusted faculty member they would feel comfortable turning to. Also brought up was the idea for a support group for parents on how to deal with certain issues on raising their child, or even a parent mentor program, where families could team up to help each other when needed.

Ann Gettis of the Kenyon-Faribault area was also present to tell her heart-wrenching story. Ann's son, Jeremiah, one of four children, spent his whole life being bullied, and after a death threat, he chose to leave school and pursue his G.E.D. In 2006, Jeremiah committed suicide, citing the bullying and cruelty of his peers as his motivation. Gettis offered her assistance in whatever she could do to help rid the Lanesboro Public Schools of their bullying issue in order to prevent future tragedies like the one she and her family endured.

The meeting concluded with the decision to begin holding regular meetings every other month to keep parents and community members updated on what the school is doing to address bullying. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 15, and parents will be notified via the website and the fall newsletter.

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