Eastport South Manor School District administrators have invited two experts to participate in a community forum early next month that will educate students and parents about the dangers of bullying and hazing, and explain what students can do to protect themselves.
The forum—scheduled for Wednesday, December 5, at the junior-senior high school in Manorville—was scheduled after a high school sophomore told Board of Education members during a public meeting last month that he was withdrawing from the district because school officials failed to help him after he was being continuously bullied by his classmates.
Approximately 50 parents, students and teachers attended last week’s Board of Education meeting on November 8 to discuss the bullying issue. Just before the public portion of the meeting was to begin, Schools Superintendent Mark Nocero announced that the district has invited Dr. Susan Lipkins and Dr. Karen Siris—both experts on bullying—to visit the district at a later date to speak about the dangers and effects of bullying.
He also said that at the next Board of Education meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, November 28, school principals and guidance counselors will be making a presentation to the board regarding bullying and what they are doing about it in the district’s four schools.
“We have to work together to address the issue because we understand that it is a real issue and we understand that kids get hurt by it,” Mr. Nocero told the attendees.
The issue was brought up at the October 17 Board of Education meeting when a 15-year-old Manorville resident, a sophomore at the high school who is not being identified because he is a minor, announced that he had withdrawn from the district after receiving no help from administrators who knew he was the victim of bullying.
At last week’s meeting, the boy’s mother—who is also not being named to protect her son’s identity—said her son has been bullied since he was an eighth-grader, and her family decided last month to enroll him in a private school. She said her son has endured verbal taunts, had papers and other objects thrown at him, and had mean and disparaging letters and pictures left in his locker. Most recently, she said, two pages have been created on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter that bash her son.
The woman, who has three other children still enrolled in the district, said she was unaware of the ordeal her son has been going through until recently, when he called her from school distraught over the actions of one student whom she described as the lead instigator of the nightmare her son has had to endure since middle school.
She noted that administrators were immediately contacted and procedures, as outlined in the district’s anti-bullying policy, were followed. But she said no disciplinary action was ever taken by the district against the student. This week, the woman said Suffolk County Police have been notified of the cyberbullying attacks against her son, and noted that she is considering filing a civil suit against the family of the boy who has been tormenting her son.
Regarding Mr. Nocero’s announcement that the district is bringing in outside counselors, the woman said that while it is a step in the right direction, she thinks it is only being done to calm parents following the uproar regarding her son’s situation and the lack of action by officials. “Mr. Nocero and the board were prepared last week and they pacified the situation,” she said.
Other parents like Ken Colvin, who has three children enrolled in the junior-senior high school and is one of the founders of the Parents’ Advocates Group, complimented the district for its willingness to work with the community and address such a sensitive issue. In particular, the board opened the floor to parents last week, eliminating the usual 5-minute time constraint on comments, to help keep the dialogue open.
“I think what parents really want is reassurance of bully awareness and prevention scenarios,” Mr. Colvin said after the meeting. “They talked a lot about long-term solutions, but as parents we want reassurances and short-term solutions, too.”
Mr. Colvin also said this week that a key to combating bullying is to implement a zero-tolerance policy for bullies, noting that if there are repercussions for their actions, bullies might think twice before they act.
Similar sentiments were shared at last week’s meeting by Bob Mulligan, a parent of two who still has a child enrolled at the high school. Mr. Mulligan, who is a licensed social worker, suggested that the district consider involving the police whenever a serious incident of bullying is identified.