Spencer proactive against bullying within district
A group of teachers and students traveled to Des Moines last month to attend Governor Branstad's summit on bullying. They met with members of the district and community on Tuesday to discuss the summit and actions the district should take proactively against bulling within the Spencer school district.
"Our bullying situation isn't necessarily worse than other districts, but we want to make sure the situations that do arise are handled," Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann said.
At the top of the list is education, making the students aware of the steps taken when a bullying situation is reported.
"We want to spend some time talking about what the school does when there are incidences in bullying," Hemann said. "We can't always be specific as to what each situation will hold, but we can generalize."
In each individual situation, the district is legally unable to disclose the repercussions with the victim or the victim's family.
"The biggest thing is not about infractions or punishments," Hemann said. "It's about turning the situation into a learning experience."
He continued. "I think we do a lot of that."
One note that the traveling group took away from the Des Moines summit is the importance of empowering the "up-stander." A play on the term "by-stander," an "up-stander" is a third party who sees a bullying situation happening and steps in to support the victim. The term, and the note, came from summit speaker Paul Gausman, superintendent at Sioux City Community School District.
The district plans on taking time to train students and staff for recognizing bullying within the school, and parents for understanding social media.
In addition, they hope to provide education to the community, using various media outlets to distribute a unified message in order to prompt a larger change against bullying.
Bullying has been an issue for years, though the rise of social media has "given bullying a stage."
Hemann noted that Spencer schools has had six to eight district-wide reported cases of bullying in the past semester. The state will release district-by-district statistics of reported bullying cases for the last semester on Dec. 15.
"Not necessarily all of our reported cases were founded," Hemann said, "but I'm curious to see where we fall within the state."
A state-wide statistic on bullying was released earlier this year, though Spencer plans to survey their students between fourth and 12th grade.
"The tendency, when a larger statistic is released, is to think, 'Oh, that's not us,'" Hemann said. "We're hoping that this survey will localize it."
He continued. "Everyone deals with bullying. Schools who say they don't are either lying or not dealing with reality. We can improve on everything we do, and this can have an effect on how we treat each other."