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Is bullying a problem in the Mt. Diablo school district?

By Theresa Harrington
Saturday, October 29th, 2011 at 3:42 pm in Education.

Northgate High School’s crisis counselors recently held a parent education night to discuss issues of importance. According to an email blast from the school’s Parent Faculty Club, parents were especially concerned about bullying.

Here’s information from the email, which includes useful information for all parents and students:

“Since it was clear that many parents had felt the effects of bullying first-hand (their child had experienced some type of bullying in the past), we felt like it would be beneficial to provide an overview of bullying to all the Northgate parents. Much of the following has been taken from the National Crime Prevention Council website. We hope that this information can help parents better understand what bullying is and can assist parents in supporting their kids, either as the victims of bullying, the witnesses to bullying, and/or as the bully him/herself.

What bullying is

- Fighting, threatening, name-calling, teasing, or excluding someone repeatedly and over time

- An imbalance of power, such as size or popularity

- Physical, social, and emotional harm

- Hurting another person to get something

Many parents don’t think that bullying is as big a problem as bringing a weapon to school or drug use but its effects can be severe and long lasting. Every day, nearly 160,000 children miss school because they are scared of bullying, according to the National Education Association. Bullying doesn’t only negatively affect its victims, but also the bullies themselves.

Kids who are bullied are more likely to

- Do poorly in school

- Have low self-esteem

- Be depressed

- Turn to violent behavior to protect themselves or get revenge on their bullies

Kids who bully are more likely to

- Do poorly in school

- Smoke and drink alcohol

- Commit crimes in the future

Parents can play a central role to preventing bullying and stopping it when it happens. Parents are often the best resource to build a child’s self-confidence and teach him or her how to best solve problems. Here are a few ways you can help:

- Teach your teen to solve problems without using violence and praise them when they do (i.e. walking away, using humor to diffuse the situation, talking it out).

- Give your teen positive feedback when they behave well to help their build self-esteem. Help give them the self-confidence to stand up for what they believe in. With your teen, practice walking upright, looking people in the eye, and speaking clearly.

- Ask your teen about their day and listen to them talk about school, social events, their classmates, and any problems they have.

- Take bullying seriously. Many teens are embarrassed to say they have been bullied. You may only have one chance to step in and help.

- Don’t encourage your child to fight. This could lead to him or her getting hurt, getting in trouble, and beginning more serious problems with the bully.

- If you see any bullying, stop it right away, even if your teen is the one doing the bullying.

- Don’t bully your children or bully others in front of them. Many times kids who are bullied at home react by bullying other kids. If your children see you hit, ridicule, or gossip about someone else, they are also more likely to do so themselves.

- Encourage your child to tell an adult at school. Explain to your child that “snitching” is when you report something just to get someone in trouble. ‘Telling’ is when you report that you or someone else is in danger.

- If your child is telling you that someone else is being bullied, encourage your child to take a stand against the bully by reporting it to an adult.

- Involve your child in activities outside of school. This way he or she can make friends in a different social circle.

In general, be ready with your ears when your teen does decide to open up, even if it’s to share simple news.

One great place to engage your teen is when you’re driving in the car together. When you are sitting beside each other in the front seat of the car, you’re facing forward. With both of you looking straight ahead, you’ve created a non-confrontational setting, in which a conversation can start and flow more easily.

Also, whether it’s in the car or somewhere else, when your teen is sharing some news, it helps to encourage more dialogue by saying, ‘Tell me more.’ This simple request gives your teen an indication that you’re interested in what they’re saying. At the same time, it’s completely non-judgmental; you’re not offering an opinion on what way just said.

Often when parents attempt to provide heartfelt advice, even with the best of intentions, teens will perceive it as a ‘lecture’ and automatically shut down the communication process.

Asking a question, on the other hand, will generate a response and lead to a dialogue. A question, particularly one that requires more than a yes or no answer, engages the brain.

Asking more and telling less also gives parents a better opportunity to learn what pressures their teens may be under. Whether it’s bullying, relationships, grades, or something else, the information more likely will come to light by asking simple, non probing questions.

Here are some websites that provide more detailed information:

http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/bullying.pdf

At the October Parent Advisory Council meeting, James Wogan talked about programs in the district that deal with bullying, along with programs for foster youth and homeless students. Here is a link to video of a portion of that meeting: http://qik.com/video/44833116.

More information about the Positive Behavior Team is at http://www.mdusd.k12.ca.us/schoollinkedservices/#. Click on CARE team.

Do you think bullying is a problem in the Mt. Diablo school district?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Doctor J

    Yes, bullying is a problem in the MDUSD school district. It starts with the School Board President.

  • CVHSMom

    There was an excellent news segment on last night about the City Manager that was brought in to help Vallejo emerge from it’s bankruptcy. I think MDUSD could learn a few things. In turning Vallejo around he started with a Code of Conduct at the City Council level; no more dysfunction, no more back stabbing, no more infighting. Council members had to agree to be “professional and cordial” at all times. He realized that turning around the financials started with the human side, starting with the top (the city council). To be role models for what the rest of the organization should be like. 100′s of hours put into training.

    Anyway, it’s certainly not all relevant to our district and board and admin, but I sure found myself thinking of them while listening to the interview. Think we could get Phil Batchelor for a year?

    Good stuff: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/video/#!/news/local/City-In-Trouble–Call-This-Guy/132862878

  • @CVHS Mom

    I have seen more bullying by Board members then I have seen in all the years my kids have been in school.

    A functional school board could do many wonderful things including good fiscal management, proper planning, and most importantly support administrators to seek education reform but…

    While it would be great to have a functional school board, no back-stabbing and no infighting, at what price and how do we get there? If it means that Cheryl Hansen must acquiesce to Gary’s “Board” then I say no thanks I would rather have infighting.
    Just weeks after Ms. Hansen was elected, Mr. Eberhart was calling her the worst Board member ever and convened a retreat to work with a consultant on Board decorum and roles.

    Now lets go back to 2008… was there infighting? – yes. Did Strange and Eberhart justify that infighting?- yes. Would they have backed down in the name of “lets all work together”? I think not.

    After many very contentious Board meetings, and in the middle of a Board meeting, Eberhart and Strange called for the resignation of the Superintendent against the wishes of the Board majority. Right or wrong for the District, I would suspect that at the time Treece, Mayo, and Allen may have considered Strange and Eberhart the worst Board members ever.

    The Board minority ran a blog site that incited the community against Treece and McHenry, as well as members of the community, including parents. Horrible things were said about a parent on their blog comment section and they refused to censor any comments that did not threaten physical harm… how quickly things change when the shoe is on the other foot.

    At several of the last Board meetings Eberhart has admonished Hansen, “If you had taken the time to speak to staff, you wouldn’t ask that” (he was trying to steer her away from discussing the closure of Willow Creek most likely because a charter school had inquired about the building and he didn’t want the public to know), “you are off topic” (not so… she was speaking of the rejection of her agenda item at the time the topic was being discussed), etc.

    For now we have to have dissension or we may not get the truth to questions that many of us have. We need Board members who question the feasibility of the cost savings with the new transportation plan, or question the method used to determine school closures, or asks serious questions about the charter process, etc.

    So while I wish the Board would work together and accomplish great things I don’t think it is in the nature of the current Board majority. Maybe some of the Board members who could swing that majority will step up and support those asking the hard questions~ without that we will simply have to wait until the next election.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a link to the blog post I did about the board retreat that focused on board relations: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/02/14/school-board-relations-101/
    Do you think trustees have followed their own recommendations?

  • Doctor J

    Ten months after the retreat and the animosity has only got worse. The Board, per Standard Operating Procedure, never followed up with Kirk Berger on another retreat nor on ANY of the suggestions. One of Kirk Berger’s strong recommendation to the Board was to: “Ultimately, he said, the public is in charge. The best time for public comment, he added, is after the staff presentation and initial discussion by the board. This way, he said, the public understands what trustees are considering and can comment on the direction trustees appear to be heading in.”
    Why doesn’t Gary try that for starters so the public feels that it is involved in the decision making process. Wouldn’t that improve the public perception of the accountability of the Board to the public.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Another thing that is different with MDUSD than most public agencies is that the board president says that a motion must be made before any discussion can take place.
    In many public agencies, elected officials discuss the agenda item first, to get a sense of what everyone is thinking, before a motion is made.
    The MDUSD operating procedure sometimes forces trustees to second a motion they may not agree with, just so they can discuss it. This is sometimes why the public is baffled when a trustee who seconds a motion ends up voting against it.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#6 — That is a board tradition, not the law. I agree wholeheartedly with Kirk Berger, this is how most boards operate, the staff gives the report, there is some discussion by board members and perhaps questions to staff, then public discussion is held and the board can interact with the public comment, then perhaps more discussion by the board, a motion is made, and more board discussion, and a vote. Instead, MDUSD Board meetings have more of a Stalinesq feel to them, with the public often feeling uninvolved, and creating a lack of trust. Gary can easily correct this situation — if he wants to.

  • Wait a Minute

    Good points Theresa and Dr J.

    It is painfully obvious to anyone who has observed Gary that he is a complete control-freak in every sense of the word.

    He clearly is uncomfortable with true democratic action and his verbal manipulations and physical body language clearly show how domineering and bullying he is.

    I still say that when consultant Kirk Berber told the board that they were all equal with the board president, Gary immediately decided that Kirk Berber and the board retreat were counter to his leadership style and its not likely he will support another retreat.

  • Wait a Minute

    By the way, there are serious issues with bullies, thugs and gangsters in the schools within the MDUSD.

    If left unchecked, these characters can destroy a school which is totally unacceptable for me.

    Here is an article on the many problems going on at MDHS,

    http://claycord.com/2011/10/03/mount-diablo-high-school-teachers-fed-up-with-abuse-on-campus/

  • Theresa Harrington

    As I have previously mentioned, Board President Gary Eberhart wants to address behavior standards as part of the strategic plan.
    “I think there’s a lot of people asking for consistency in terms of how we use behavioral standards,” he said, at the board’s Sept. 26 strategic planning meeting. “The highest level of desire is from our students. Students want to know what the rules are and to know that those rules are going to fly all the time.”
    He said some teachers also don’t feel supported by administrators regarding behavioral issues. Some site administrators, he said, don’t want to suspend students “because they know what that looks like.”
    He said some students act out, then others follow, because they see the first ones getting away with it.
    “We have to be able to motivate our students,” he said. “Obviously, we need to provide support, but we’re going to have to say: ‘Look, we’re not going to take this.’”
    Trustee Lynne Dennler said that when she was a teacher, she had a student who threw chairs and cussed at her. When she sent him to the office, many times he was just sent back to class afterwards, she said.
    Eberhart said that shouldn’t happen because it shows the rest of the class that there is virtually no ramification.
    “Most parents have the expectation that we will address these issues so that it doesn’t affect their student,” he said.
    Eberhart said Clayton Valley High Principal Sue Brothers started calling parents about student behavior at the beginning of the school year, so that both students and parents understood the school’s expectations.
    Hansen said 99 percent of behavior problems can be resolved through the relationship of the teacher and administrator with the student. She said this is part of “School Culture.”
    Some teachers may have no issues with students who are cussing out teachers in other classes, she said.
    Hansen said district staff needs to understand how to clearly communicate expectations.
    Eberhart said there were about 5,000 suspensions districtwide.
    “I think it takes a lot to get a kid a suspension in this district,” he said. “So the fact that we have 5,000 suspension days, I think, says something.”
    Eberhart said he didn’t think anyone would condone cussing as a way to communicate.
    But Whitmarsh said: “I think there are some families where that’s the way the parents and children communicate.”
    Eberhart also said he wants the board to address social promotion.
    “My two hills that I’m willing to die on are discipline and social promotion,” he said.

  • Doctor J

    @TH #10 Just remember there is a reason that MDUSD is in Program Improvement for Title III for SIX years, and a lot of it has to do with disproportionality in suspensions and explusions. Gary Eberhart and Linda Mayo have had many years to deal with it, and haven’t. So I guess Gary has picked his boot hill.

  • Theresa Harrington

    It seemed like he may have also been referring to inconsistent discipline at Clayton Valley HS. This partially led to the charter movement.

  • Doctor J

    Gary’s child went to CVHS for four years, and never once did Gary mention inconsistent discipline there. He only mentioned it after the teacher trigger Charter began and it was raised by Charter supporters.

  • Wait a Minute

    If discipline is such a priority fo Gary, then why is MDHS in such chaos?

  • District Teacher

    This article is about student bullying, and not one post reflects that. I can now see why there is so much bullying on our campuses – just look at how the adults on all sides of issues facing the district are acting. There’s a time and a place for political debates, and this is article is neither, unless it relates to the article. I thought ours is a district where kids come first.

    I’m all for a robust political debate, but bullying is an epidemic in our district and it needs more attention. The debate here is what the consequences of bullying should be in a district where principals are being told by the Superintendent not to suspend students.

  • Linda L

    I am so glad I am almost finished with this District. REALLY Gary… the hill you want to die on is discipline and social promotion? I have not heard a single parent in my circle of friends have either of these two items on their top 10 list.
    I am not saying there aren’t kids who are problems but really has anyone considered the fact that we are boring our high school students to death. We are having them sit in classrooms that are nothing like their world outside of school and teaching them in ways that aren’t relevant to their world. Has anyone considered that many of the discipline problems would go away (not all) if the curriculum was relevant, rigorous, and engaging?

  • Doctor J

    Spot on Linda L.

  • Anonymous

    Sad part is that Gary and his own student experienced first hand the bad teaching, bad teachers and all around ineffective administration. NOTHING was done until the charter talks, though they had issues. I think like Linda said above, he too was just glad to be done… well not quite I guess because the rest of us were left to continue on there… maybe if they spent the effort on CV back when they should’ve we wouldn’t be here today. Graduating senior families this year are still wondering if their kids are really even college ready. Good god, when was anything going to be done? What other schools feel ignored, who’s next?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s an article that links anti-bullying to school culture: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/improving-class-climate-improves-class-climate-maurice-elias

  • Doctor J
  • Aon

    I have my fingers crossed that Gary is about to resign. I suspect that the up and comers on the board (Hansen and Dennler) are giving him all he can handle.

    Gary do the right thing. Apologize and resign.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s the beginning of an interesting article about why it’s important to choose a superintendent carefully: http://www.asbj.com/MainMenuCategory/Archive/2011/November/Choosing-the-Perfect-Superintendent.html
    Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to get the rest of the story.

  • g

    Actually, Theresa, just those opening paragraphs said plenty.

    I was wondering about something from the last Board meeting. Books, etc. October has ended. Did the Board keep its promise to “assure all insufficiencies were rectified by the end of October 2011″?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Rose Lock told me the district had rectified all the insufficiencies by the Oct. 25 board meeting. When I pointed out that the resolution said it hadn’t, she seemed surprised and said she thought that had been changed.
    The district had removed the attachment, but didn’t change the wording about failing to meet the requirement. So, the resolution implies that there was more work to be done, even though Lock assured me it was taken care of.

  • Just J.

    It’s kinda like the district assuring us that the bussing issues have been taken care of when in fact they have not.
    The level of trust is gone for me. I do not believe anything that is said.

  • Linda L

    Theresa #22 – Thanks for the article

    I went in search of the entire article and found this:
    http://www.nspra.org/files/docs/CharacteristicsOfEffectiveSuperintendents.pdf

    Interesting to note that the top skills that award-winning Superintendents believed important are listed below and are often mentioned on this blog:

    Leadership/vision/strategic thinker/problem solver
    Communication/Community Relations
    Interpersonal Skills
    Character
    Competency – curricular areas- support for public education

    Budget and Finance is on the list but comes in well behind these top five skills. At one point in time I believed these were the skills our School Board was interested in finding in a Superintendent candidate. Now I am certain they were not.

    Just as a reminder here is a list of the skills our Board “said” they wanted in a Superintendent:
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AaAjizjxt5Z7ZGdkZ3I2OHRfMWc4dDJtbmM4&hl=en

  • g

    Theresa, Have you heard anything different from the teachers?

    Sad that this is just one more example of the Board voting without reading, without questioning, without caring, without knowing!

  • Theresa Harrington

    No, I haven’t heard anything different from teachers.
    But, I was surprised there was no substantial board discussion, since the resolution stated that information would be presented that detailed the insufficiencies.
    Instead, no information was presented beyond the resolution, which the board unanimously agreed to adopt.