Holly Springs group seeks ideas to prevent bullying

aspecht@newsobserver.comJune 12, 2014 

— If schools conducted research to determine which students were most likely to be bullies, could the teachers then do a better job of preventing bad behavior?

What if some schools didn’t impose seating assignments during lunch? Would that reduce the risk of bullying and allow victims to find solace among friends?

What if every musical artist to perform at a public venue in Holly Springs was contractually obligated to discuss bullying during shows?

It can be tough to know where to start to prevent bullying. But community members came together in Holly Springs on Wednesday to pitch ideas that might help.

A group of about 25 parents, educators and students attended the third meeting of the Holly Springs Anti-Bullying Committee.

Principals, counselors and teachers who attended said their schools use programs that are effective in addressing bullying. But they want to do more.

“It’s gonna take a multi-pronged approach and it requires everyone in this room,” said Fran Sapir, a counselor at Laurel Park Elementary in Apex.

“You can never have too many tools in the toolbox,” she said.

Holly Springs is not especially known for having problems with bullying or violence. But committee members said they can’t turn on the television or read the newspaper without hearing about its effects.

They mentioned the 11-year-old student at Zebulon Middle School who tried to kill himself earlier this year. The boy’s parents have said he was bullied for liking “My Little Pony.”

There have been shootings at six schools across the United States since the committee’s last meeting on April 22.

The first step to addressing bullying is defining it and talking to students about why it’s wrong, said Dawn Ward, a co-chairperson of the committee.

“If a student’s perception is that they’re being bullied, then they’re being bullied,” Ward said.

Schools then need to make sure students who are bullied – or who witness bullying – feel comfortable telling a teacher or counselor about it, said Tim Locklair, principal of Holly Springs High School.

“If a kid doesn’t report it, there’s no bullying problem (in the school’s eyes),” said Troy Smith, a teacher at Holly Ridge Middle School. “That’s the unfortunate reality.”

Teachers and administrators shared their strategies for broaching the subject in the classroom. Melissa DeRosier, CEO of 3C Institute, talked about how some research programs can yield information that can be useful to combat bullying.

Those ideas and strategies were all well and good, said Gregg Graves, a counselor at Heritage Middle School in Wake Forest. But if parents and educators don’t become more social media savvy, bullying is only going to get worse, he said.

“They are geniuses at what they do (on social media), and we have no idea what they’re doing,” Graves said. “Parents really, really need to get a grip on what kids are doing.”

The group decided to set up its own account on Facebook and Twitter. Aside from that, the committee’s plan of action was to attend the next meeting with two more ideas for combating bullying.

“We don’t know the direction we’re going other than we want to help,” said Smith, the teacher at Holly Ridge Middle. “But I love the fact that this (committee) keeps getting a little bigger.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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