November 15, 2013

Taking bullying by the horns

Delphi Mayor Strasser: Bullying 'more than a school issue.'

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — DELPHI — Community leaders who attended the the final “All In: Building a Positive Community” forum ranged from parents, city and county officials and educators to administrators, law enforcement officers, ministers and health care professionals.

The common theme between those who attended, despite different professional backgrounds, was the desire to make a difference in Carroll County.

Janet Ayres, a representative of the Purdue Extension, asked the nearly 50 leaders who attended to talk about what they see from their professional perspective. The three-part forum, sponsored by Purdue Extension, is a pilot program that could be duplicated statewide. The documentary “REJECT” was used to lead into discussion and then a plan of action against ostracism, exclusion, or bullying.

Chris Lagoni, superintendent at Carroll Consolidated School Corporation, talked about electronic bullying subsiding in the past few years. Lagoni recalls four years ago when teachers, students and administrators spent a lot of time training on what is appropriate for social media. He has noticed a decrease of online bullying problems.

Dana Kirkwood, a school social worker, spoke of seeing similar issues with bullying in adults and children.

“Bullying comes from the top down, from parents to kids, and then the bottom up, from kids to the school,” Kirkwood said. “I’m seeing similar results despite the different generations. A lot of times parents who were bullied have kids who are bullied and parents who were bullies have kids who are bullies.”

Overall, community leaders agreed bullying isn’t just a child or school issue. Randy Strasser, Delphi mayor, said he was hoping after the third forum people understand the issue better.

“I believe people are aware bullying is more than a school issue,” Strasser said. “It’s a community issue.”

From a ministerial perspective, Bill McLean said bullying behaviors aren’t limited to children.

“You can see bullying at church with youth ministry,” McLean said. “They aren’t getting it from nowhere, they are getting it from parents.”

For law enforcement, Kevin Hammond with Carroll County Sheriff’s Office talked about the documentary and what it helped him realize.

“It helped me bring the pieces together,” Hammond said. “We’re seeing it from a different perspective.”

Hammond said law enforcement officers see things going on in the home that school officials may not be aware of. He suggested public bodies share information so that officers could notify school administrators of what they have seen.

Delphi Elementary principal Ana Ave said she was happy with the turnout.

“I’m thrilled to see this group here because teachers and principals can’t do it all,” Ave said.

Kristie Brule, a math interventionist in the Delphi school corporation, said she wants to see students get involved in the school and community.

Brule also talked about the importance of having at least one friend, which is brought up during the documentary, “REJECT.” The documentary shows the effects of ostracism and how being rejected can cause physical pain, which can lead to violence. Those painful emotions can be decreased by having at least one friend.

“If kids get involved, they will find that one person to be their friend,” Brule said.

After community leaders shared various perspectives, they discuss what actions can be taken in Carroll County. A few of the actions discussed included mentoring at-risk children, sharing resources between law enforcement and schools, making community resources widely known and providing education to adults in the community.

A few community leaders said it would be helpful to have a pamphlet or website of the available resources in Carroll County.

Ayres said she was overwhelmed with the ideas.

“I’m hearing things we can do as individuals and as a community,” Ayres said. “I see a grant. I see future forums. I see a lot of great ideas to work with.”

The planning committee that brought the pilot program will be sifting through the ideas for action and creating an extensive strategy. The condensed action plan will be created and community leaders will be asked to get back together in January. At that point, people will be able to break into groups and take action on the items decided by committee members.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.