Spencer proactive against bullying within district

Saturday, December 8, 2012
Spencer Superintendent Terry Hemann

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."

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  • While this situation happened several years ago at the middle school, I have heard of similar outcomes in the Spencer District -- victim blaming. One of my children had a friend who was constantly tormented about her weight and her general socio-economic condition by a certain small group of girls.

    My child went with the friend to the office, and the outcome was that my child, the other child, and several of their friends were placed in a counseling group to talk about THEIR problems. I did not receive any sort of consent form for my child to participate in such a therapy group, nor would I have given consent without more information.

    There was also an attitude of, "What did you do to bring it on?"

    One of my other children was bullied by a posse of boys in middle school due to a disability. Unbenownst to me, and probably to any adult, he and this posse had a back and forth throughout the school year of pranking and stunts you would expect in a middle school boys' locker room. At the end of the year, the ringleader of this posse brought (supposedly) exactly $125 to school of confirmation money and was flashing it around. After PE class that day, the money was missing. The owner of this wealth and his posse went crying to the principal, and we received a call to watch for any new purchases. Due to my son's disability, he would not have been cautious or subtle in purchasing new comic books, Legos, action figures or the like if he had come in to money at that age.

    The money did not turn up for several days, and I thought the situation was resolved until we received a pleasant visit from the police at our home. Ultimately, we paid up on our son's behalf so that the other boy's "very upset" parents would not take police action against our son. We made it very clear that it was the one and only time we would bail him out of such a situation, and we did acknowledge his part in the wrong doing.

    Had one of my children lost a wad of cash after acting dumb and flashing it around at school, I am not sure I would push to get it all returned to them. I would feel my child could sustain a consequence of his or her actions of bragging and acting dumb. If I then found out my child had bullied the person who likely took their money, I would have no sympathy at all for my child's loss. But that's just me.

    Our son claims to have flushed the money down the toilet, and that could well be an accurate report.

    I wish more children were raised to believe that you don't have to like everyone; you do need to treat them with respect and/or leave them alone. There will always be people you don't like. There will always be bullies. But the impact can be reduced if children are raised to respect others, and to live and let live.

    -- Posted by AmyPeterson on Sat, Dec 8, 2012, at 7:20 AM
  • In the not so distant past I have experienced A LOT of problems with bullying in the spencer school district of my son, neice, and nephew. It was brought up continously to office staff, teachers, principles, etc. I don't feel at all like anyone cared about our situation or took it seriously at all. I really truly hope they change things around and aren't treating other families the way my son and his cousins have been treated. My neice and nephew have recently moved away partly due to the bullying they received on a continuously basis, and my son is no longer riding the bus as he was NEVER safe on it. In fact he was even wrote up for trying to get away from a kid on the bus that was punching him in the head!!! I do have to say though that my other son does have a disability and the special education teachers and the driver of the handicapped accessible bus are absolutely amazing and have always made sure that nothing like these other experiences have ever occured with him, and for that I'm extremely grateful.

    -- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Dec 9, 2012, at 10:28 AM
  • My daughter had also had many issues with being bullied at the middle school as well. To the point of wanting to leave school and not go back. Several time she was in the office and nothing was done to change or stop the situation she was in. I contacted the state offices in Des Moines and obtained some information and also filed a report regarding the way the school had handled the problem. With many of the incidences not being documented i was told that there was not much I could do. We as parents need to be proactive in protecting our kids and looking for signs that he or she is being bullied. We need to stand behind them and be their voice and force the school to do their job. Maybe if multiple parents push hard enough, the bully situation in our school system will be taken seriously.

    -- Posted by spicypepper1 on Tue, Dec 11, 2012, at 8:02 AM
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