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on Oct 25, 2007
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This is an excellent idea; we should embed this program throughout the district. Bullying has a real social cost, in that it can badly damage youth who are not resilient. It's a fact that some of the worst examples of K-12 campus violence were perpetrated by youth who had been bullied in the past.
It's also a fact that thhose who are bullied today will become tomorrow's bullies, if they get the opportunity.
Recently, I have been on a few local campuses. I was shocked by the use of the word "gay" in a derogatory way. This is unacceptable in any community, and should be even more unacceptable here, in a place that prides itself on tolerance. We need to include verbal bullying within the limits of this program (if it isn't already), and make concerted efforts - including strict disciplinary measures - to eliminate the careless, thoughtless, and rude use of words that are race, gender, or lifestyle-related by our youth, as a put downs, or worse.
We do ourselves, and or children, and our/their future no good by letting this behavior go unchecked.
Yes, and also teach children not to identify with, or admire bullies.
To quote a friend: "I don't want to teach my students to be leaders. I want to teach them not to be followers."
Let's be a little careful here. A definition of "bullying" is in order. If Sally wants to hang with Julie, anb both of them don't want to hang with Susie, is that bullying? I seem to remember something about freedom of association.
There's a difference between friendship preferences shown in a respectful way, and looking for ways to use hurtful tactics to achieve the same goal.
We need to teach our kids to deal with the natural disappointments that occur in daily life, including rejection, and occasional bullying - but having to deal with *constant* harrassment from an insecure bully is something that no kid in any school should have to put up with.
All kids are learning appropriate social skills - some are better than others in peer-relationships. That said, status seeking is wired; there are always going to be those who will want to pursue dominance more than others -- and status seeking can take on a very wide range of behavior. We can't stop that, and I don't think that's what the anti-bullying efforts are trying to achieve; it's more about stoping consistent, blatant, bullying - verbal and physical.
The occasional playground tiff isn't what this is all about; however, we can use even those incidents to teach object lessions to kids about how to get their way without burning bridges.
Every school handles its "bully training" in different ways under different names. Barron needed to hire an outside professional to teach it because it had a problem..great plan, great solution, and I am happy it is working.
But, don't anybody go thinking that this is the same solution needed for all the schools. Each school is different, its needs are different, and its solutions are different.
yes, our school did a great program by volunteers a couple years in a row, but not last year..but I know it is on the goal list for our PTA this year. I will try to find the name of it.
This article doesn't really say much about the problem or the program. The principal says bullying wasn't the problem, resilience was. For intervention, the school is targeting children who are supposedly not "resilient" in the face of negative treatment (dare we say the B word?). Why is the school most concerned about toughening up the victims? This focus would be a perversion of any sane anti-bullying program. This whole project sounds like another useless, feel-good waste of money by administrators who don't have the nerve to call a spade a spade and punish bullies for bullying. If Palo Alto is a haven for entitled children whose parents don't hold them accountable for their behavior, this program sounds like serious enabling by the school. Common sense and some old fashioned strategies like consequences that make it VERY uncomfortable for children to create a hostile environment for others, while letting the children work out their small disagreements, would probably have a faster, cheaper, more lasting effect.
Common sense. There's a place for both strategies. Some kids are more susceptible to bullying, and/or forced alienation from other kids. That susceptibility can lead to serious problems, down the road. So, we shuold help those kids, if we can.
On the other hand, there shuold also be a clearly stated "NO TOLERANCE" policy for those who *consistently* use words or physical behavior to intimidate others.
That said, the latter group is often ALSO in need of some consideration, as bullying is often a symptom of deeper seated problems, or a learned strategy that creates dysfunctionality in relationship.
There needs to be balance. It's not an easy job to find that balance, and correct it, but I laud our school teachers and administrators for trying.
RWE -- I don't disagree. I just didn't see anything in the article other than the fact of implementing this program that even acknowledged there was an actual bullying problem, let alone any discussion whatsoever of a zero tolerance rule. Of course we should help bullies to become socialized and help "non-resilient" kids not to overreact, but to implement a program like this while saying the problem is bystanders and oversensitive kids, I mean, seriously. How is that going to do anything but embolden the bullies they claim don't exist there?
I wonder if we are all using the term "bullying" in the same context.
To me a typical school bully is someone who is always aggressively picking on someone younger/weaker/meeker to the extent that they physically do damage to their belongings or steal from them, or physically hurt them. There is also the emotional bullying from teasing, name calling, etc. that happens to one particular child multiple times from the same source.
There is also the type of behavior whereby someone is someone's best friend one day and the next they are being rude and unkind to each other, or one is particularly nasty to the other, and once again they make it up the next day and their friendship is possibly stronger as a result of this.
Whereas the former is undoubtedly wrong and must be prevented at all costs, I am more concerned about the wisdom of knowing where to draw the line on the second. I have seen and heard from my kids of incidents where it is really difficult to see which type of behavior is which. I have seen refusals to shake hands at the end of sports games, of rudeness (or complete deliberate no contact), of supposedly casual threats and other less aggressive behavior that is still unsettling for the victim.
At the same time as letting our children sort out some of the problems themselves and knowing when it is wise to intervene, there should be at least some teaching of which is which. I definitely do not want to see bullying in its harshest persona allowed, but I do not want adults to intervene to the extent that kids are not able to protect themselves from what goes on in the world.
As a parent of kids who spend most of their time arguing as the means of communication, I can see that there are times when intervention is necessary and when it is not. I can also see that my kids can be pretty awful to one another one minute and help each other with homework or chores the next. I know that they feel they can behave with each other in ways they would never dream of behaving with others and at the same time are horrified if an outsider treats our family that way. In other words, they are very protective towards each other even though they can be pretty awful too. To me this behavior actually teaches some types of skills for life and is part of the growing up process. Taking all of this away could end up in turning them into weakwilled adults unable to stand up for themselves in society. We must not protect them to the extent that this is the end result.
Parent -- good food for thought. Question: How likely do you think it is that in *any* microcosm of children, including Barron Park, *none* of the first category of behavior takes place? I just read the article and it sounds like the principal doesn't think it exists, period. That sounds a little optimistic or naive to me.
yes, I thought the same thing about the article. Where is the instruction for how to teach kids to ID bullies and deal with them?
Where is the clear statement..no bullying.
Where is Bullying defined?
At our school- there is no tolerance for overruling a "no" by a kid when others start something, none for any dirty word or name calling at all, none for any pushing/shoving/slapping/hitting etc, of course, much teaching of kids of "conflict resolution" and "tolerance of differences" of all types, and much "empathy" building by teachers and programs.
The Barron Park thing didn't seem complete to me, but I figured it was just incomplete reporting.
Anyone go to this to tell us what it was all about?
Same, the silence speaks volumes. There's a story there, all right. Ms. Pennell just has to get interested and dig deeper.
Contrary to BP Survivor's cryptic remarks, the program at Barron Park was not a response to a specific problem, though this behavior goes on in every school. The issue was generally discussed for a year or so before any real action was taken in relation to the district goal to "Foster social-emotional-physical health and resilience in every student as measured by improved student behaviors."
You can learn more about the Steps to Respect program at
Web Link where many of the questions raised above are answered.
I think it is great that Barron Park is using this program. I've been a parent there and I've seen a lot of bad bullying over the years. Even when people tried to talk to other parents, teachers, the principal, the site counsel and the district people, it never seemed to help. Some people even transferred out. Steps to respect is a really great program, even if it costs a little extra money, and I think Barron Park is doing the right thing trying it. Of course, it probably won't get all solved right away, but you have to start somewhere.
yes, that is the story behind all this.
Isn't the bullying awful? It's really too bad that it's gone on this long. But the first step is admitting you have a problem. Maybe the outside consultant can do what no one else has been able to.
Few kids are born statesmen... they have to learn how to work with a group... both victims and bullies make it hard for a group to jell. In our hard-driving success oriented society many kids never get teh basics of interpersonal communitation at all. And in this environment playground tensions often require much more sophisticated skills for "working things out"... than the average kid can think up on his/her own. For example, you can give a bunch of kids violins and tell them to play together. But you usually get closer to an orchestra if you use show them how to play together. the same is true of playground behavior.
Unfortunately, Watching, in this case it would be the blind leading the blind, since the administration doesn't seem to know how to play the violin in the first place.
I'm glad BP is doing something, I've heard from parents about persistent bullying problems there. I wonder if its overflow school status has anything to do with it?
Addressing the social climate at the school seems to be key. Not just stopping bullies, but making the overall environment more healthy.
That said, I like my school's environment and way of dealing with bullying - problems are dealt swiftly, positively, and in community context. I can't say that I've ever come across the kind of bullying I've heard of at BP, though I suppose with kids anything is possible.
In the vein of "if it ain't broke," I might be interested in informational parent lectures but would be against imposing any program. I'm in agreement with the post above, that each school has its own social environment and each needs its own way.
It's funny. Several posters have mentioned the bad bullying problem at the school. It's also pretty obvious this has been going on a long time. But in the article and in the post from BPES parent, no one will admit that the problem exists. Something is seriously wrong over there if the principal and the school psychologist can't even acknowledge the problem that people all over the district seem to know exists, and just attribute it to training the victims on how to be less sensitive. Between the principal and staff saying there's no problem, and one parent saying they discussed solutions for at least a year even though there is no problem, it all sounds pretty codependent to me. Poor kids. They deserve better than that.
I just want to say that I've had a child at Barron Park Elementary School each year since 1999 and have volunteered in their classrooms one day per week and driven on countless field trips. Although I acknowledge that I'm not there all day every day and that my presence as an adult may alter some of the children's behavior, I have not witnessed nor heard of bullying to the degree described above. Of course the school has a range of temperaments and/or aggressiveness, but I've always assumed that was fairly normal for a cohort of kids from a wide variety of backgrounds. Overall BPES has a very welcoming sense of community and I'm glad my children have had a chance to go to school there.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Wow. I'm sorry that people have had bad experiences at BPES. Of course I don't claim that bullying behavior doesn't exist there, I just didn't realize it was perceived as pervasive and rampant. I initially read this thread feeling proud that our school was addressing this issue and then felt compelled to provide a my perspective since it felt different from what I was reading in the posts. I didn't mean to imply that problems don't exist and I'm sorry for any misunderstanding.
You have no need to apologize, Lisa. BP Survivor just thinks it is OK to smear an entire school. The "pervasive and rampant bullying that is common knowledge around town" is a myth. When BP Survivor is ready to publish their real name, like you did, then we can give credibility to their claims.
What was being described as bullying addressed by the program in the original article happens at every school. Instead of ignoring it, as happens at most schools, Barron Park did something about it. For that the school community is being slammed. Strange.
BPES Parent (is that your real name?):
I'm not slamming on Barron Park for trying this program. I'm slamming on the school's public position that bad emotional and physical bullying does not exist there. This party line is belied by the fact that here is Barron Park spending a bunch on a fancy program (whose website lists FIRST establishing a zero tolerance policy, not that you would get that at all from the article)just three years after its last all-school anti-bullying campaign. It's not a smear, it's a fact, that people transferred out or opted out in droves until the District placed a hold on all intra-district transfers. Why do you think it had so much room for overflow kids?
I'm not the one making accusations or jumping on people who do use their real name.
Back up your statements with facts: "people transferred out or opted out in droves" How many? Over what period of time? Do you personally know each one of them and their personal story? If you can't give this information then, yes, you are in fact smearing the school.
There have certainly been families who have left. The ones I know who left blamed the school for problems that began at home, and there was an issue with the children's resiliency. Which is what this program is intended to address. The point is it is not JUST about bullying, but about helping children navigate social relationships.
The quotes and description in the article may have been awkward. But again, at least this school is doing something about this issue. What is YOUR school doing? Hopefully something equally positive. If so, maybe better to pay attention there than trash other people's neighborhood schools since you chose to remove yourself.
Gosh, maybe we should a social interaction program for this forum ;-)
BP (and to a lesser extent Briones) has a more diverse and somewhat more transient student population than many other PA schools. That likely creates more friction among kids. Is this a problem? Certainly some parents see it that way - it is not what they like or perhaps what they thought they were signing up for when they came to PAUSD. They will want to get out of BP, or perhaps just complain. On the other hand, I (and at least some others) actually prefer the diversity and hopefully the social adaptiveness that comes with it, even at the cost of some friction.
So I wish good luck to Principal Kathy and her crew who generally run a good school I think under conditions fairly different from many of our other PA schools.
Or maybe they don't like being screamed at, at school or online.
Funny, but Escondido has a very transient population in that it serves Stanford graduate students' families. And Briones has the same issue, but we haven't heard anything about a horrible bullying problem there.
Stanford grad students might not be the same demographic as served by BP via its coverage of the Ventura neighborhood and the mobile home park/apartments on Los Robles, or Briones by its coverage of the Arestradero corridor apartments. That economic and cultural diversity, plus overflow kids coming and going with high regularlity, probably creates a more challenging/volatile environment. I know BP feels they cannot get nearly as much parent involvement as most of the other schools for these (and perhaps other) reasons.
I don't know enough about the issues at Briones vs. BP to directly compare the two. I do know first hand that Briones has a very small number of kids who are fairly serious trouble makers and make some of the other kids feel uncomfortable; and that the economic and social diversity of the place play a role in that. I know at least one family that chose to put their kid in private school because they felt she was too "sensitive" (their term) for the environment there. So some of the issues that appear to exist at BP also exist at Briones.
BTW, how does this relate to the Duveneck "no touch" policy from last spring? Did they have "bullying" issues there?
I don't know about specific "programs" addressing bullying, which is a REAL problem that exists but can be dealt with on an ongoing basis. How? I do know that there should be basic decency in interactions in school, and that school officials are responsible for school operations and should make clear a policy/expectation of basic respectful behavior - yes, even little kids can show basic manners, we are not talking about anything elaborate, just basic decency, and that there are limits.
A 5th grader once grabbed a (minor) paper award out of the hands of my (5th grade) child and ripped it up, in view of the teacher. My child told me about it later, wasn't terribly upset and we realized it had to be water under the bridge. There are degrees of bullying, but it can be bad and aboslutely worthy of punishment.
There is the ability of "freedom of association" as someone put it, however that is entirely different from total ostracization of a student for no reason at all. I know it's the school officials' job to be as watchful as possible.
I am impressed when I meet a child with good manners, and this doesn't happen all the time. Just because your child is the loudest and most demanding doesn't mean s/he is the "best." Some parents here seem to think so. I remember when I moved here as a child and it struck me to be the case back then. There are a lot of loud children in PAUSD and some of them are incredibly narcissistic, some are just raised to have extremely high self-esteem. I realize there is a difference. Quieter children may have a lot to add to the classroom and I appreciate the type of teacher who makes sure all have an opportunity to have a voice in the classroom.
BTW I have seen some sophisticated bullying at the middle and high school level. I believe some parents are actually proud of their bully children. That is awful.
I just read a number of the messages here, and a lot of them ring so true. k, above, you are right. There are different levels of bullying and they all should be addressed at school.
Unfortunately, it's not the case.
I am the mother of a child who was constantly ostracized in elementary school. Other kids would always lock him out of their games at recess for instance and make fun of him. It was so painful... Well, my child eventually started taking his frustration out on the kids ostracizing him by becoming "physical" with them.
His being physical got him into a LOT of trouble with the principal at school, and I understand that his being physical was unacceptable and had to be addressed. However...
The principal DID NOT CARE one second to address the emotional bullying (exclusionary behavior) that my son had been subjected to. He said (and I quote approximately): "we draw the line at physical behavior"... that was the only kind of bullying he was interested in addressing, even though i made it clear that my son's action was in reaction to other kids' bullying him. He did not seem to realize that the other kids were party to the whole situation and that both types of bullying had to be addressed for a satisfactory resolution of the whole situation. Needless to say that my son felt again ostracized.
Of course, as parents, we impressed on him that he needed to deal with the other kids differently and worked on it with him. Unfortunately I have to report that the ostracizing and his locking out continued to his very last day of elementary school...
I am afraid that his principal must not be the only principal who chooses to address only one kind of bullying. When is PAUSD (and other schools for that matter) going to realize that ALL types of bullying had to be taken seriously by school staff and management ? and addressed as such when they rear they ugly heads, not just talk about it in feel good sessions ?
PS: By the way our elementary school was not Barron Park but another PAUSD elementary school.
BPES, why do you assume I chose to "remove myself?" The school ends at 5th grade after all.
I have had my kids at BP for eight years. While no school is perfect, this idea of a 'pervasive and rampant' bullying problem at Barron Park is completely out of sync with the school I know.
By the way, we should be careful not to generalize about entire communitites. I have been a high school teacher for twenty years and can attest to the fact that bullying happens at ALL schools and appears in many forms-- Reading some of these posts, I can't help but wonder if BP is being singled out because of underlying issues around race and culture.
While I wouldn't argue with the point that bullying can happen anywhere, I think the comments above mischaracterize Briones. I know families who transferred TO our school because of bullying at BP (before BP stopped allowing transfers). When we went through the search for a new principal last year, we had a high turnout at meetings, and people across the board expressed the desire for a principal who understood how much we value our diversity (and see it as an asset).
My child had problems in the classroom last year with a little girl who clearly had a lot of emotional issues from home. She started the year a bully, but the teacher, principal, and school psychologist all took complaints seriously and dealt with it. No one ever once treated me or my child as described above, concerns were always taken seriously. The little girl continued to have problems through the year, but bullying was not one of them.
Far more often, I hear comments from parents about what a nice group of kids we have at our school. The teachers, parents, and staff really do work very hard to create a supportive environment.
I have been a parent at Barron Park for 10 years, and have three wonderful but quirky kids that each were there five to six years. My oldest was never bullied till middle school The other two have not had any experience with bullying. I think that the reason we have such a complete zero tolarence for bullying program is two fold.
First, I think the staff there has a high priority on letting each child in our diverse population feel accepted. I think the reason they spent money on this policy, rather than on some other need (and our population has many needs!) is a reflection of that priority. The program is not in place because of a problem but because of a priority of building emotional intelegence. Perhaps other schools don't have a bullying program because they don't think emotional education is a priority.
Second, we do have a tremendously diverse population, as Terry from Midtown described so clearly. A homogeneous population has an easier time finding common ground than a heterogeneous one. It takes practice and guidance dealing with diversity. Some people who opt out of Barron are partially expressing discomfort with diversity. This program is trying to give our children tools to deal with being citizens a world that if filled with differing abilities, languages, colors, nationalities, levels of academic ability and even (gasp) socio-economic status. I think there is a tremendous benefit from being in such a varied population, while pursuing academic excellence. But it does create a more challenging classroom than a more similar set of student backgrounds.
The dedicated staff at the school recognizes this, and has taken steps to teach the skills nescassary to deal with it. And for this we get this vituperative set of comments?
Come on guys, this is not about race, as you are implying. That is just a cheap card to throw down because you, personally, have had no problems. Bully for you!! ( My attempt at silliness). Nobody is saying that BP has any more bullies than other schools or that the problems arise from "race" or "cultural" differences. Juana has the same demographics,..and I would venture a wild guess that Esocondido isn't exactly homogenous.
That said, I personally know of only one problem at BP, and it was between two WHITE kids..Other than that, I have known kids from each of the "4 colors" ( brown, black, white and ...is Asian a color??) to cause troubles and to defend against trouble at another school. So, the whole race thing implication is nauseating.
The reaction you are seeing is because Barron Park was held up as some kind of a model for anti-bullying etc as if the rest of the District has some kind of problem it isn't addressing. So, the rest of us who have either left BP because of troubles with kids or know kids who HAVE left to escape a problem at BP are simply reacting to not having the story come out honestly. GREAT for BP for addressing its issues!! Nobody is faulting that.
The irritation is in not saying WHY BP felt it had to go to get paid, professional help. Spending money on a program implies that there was a high motivation to do so. No school spends money on something that is unnecessary ( or at least, one would hope not). And, by extension, the holier than thou attitude creeping out. Brings out the defensive bristles.
That was the reaction you all are seeing.
Just beat me to it, Answering. My reaction was for the same reasons..I would have admired BP in the story if anyone had honestly stated "We needed help and didn't know what to do, so we paid for professional advice". GREAT!!! It was the attitude that this was the only way and it was out of the kindness of their hearts and everyone else should do it..THAT was the problem.
KQED-FM (88.5 fm) has a discussion about bullying Friday morning at 10 am
In my day if you had a problem with a bully you gave him a good punch in the nose but now you can't do that without a bunch of crybaby parents screeching about lawsuits.
That's true. Kids can push other kids around and no one does anything for years but when the victim finally fights back, that's the one who gets in trouble and has to apologize and listen to a lecture about "using your words."
I have told my kids that i will completely back them up if they hit another kid if
1) the other kid throws the first bunch, and if
2)they hit the kid a lot harder than they kid hit them.
A kid has the right to defend himself. Of course, I also teach the first "talk it out, go to a teacher" blah blah. But, honestly, by the time a kid is in Middle School, walking by himself to school and back, s/he has to not only learn to defend him/herself, it has to be well known that s/he WILL fight back, or s/he will be targeted by bullies.
This is the law of human nature, and no amount of education will eradicate it. Our kids must learn to take care of themselves and to defend themselves, not count on others to do it for them.
I think the point was economic diversity and cultural diversity. I think the bulk of the schools in Palo Alto have racial diversity