BLANCHESTER — Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch told a room of about 40 people that bullying is a societal problem, spurred by media, and he shared tips for parents.
“Let’s work together; we both have the same interest in mind,” Lynch said. “I think it’s a societal problem, and it’s a problem I don’t think we can correct, to be honest with you.”
“What’s wrong with our society?” Lynch asked. “That’s what we’re seeing, and I hope I laid the groundwork that it’s through media. It’s the violence of our video games and movies.”
Lynch also added social media and the ease of cyberbullying as contributing factors.
At the presentation, Lynch shared the school district’s policies towards bullying and said he’d recommend a change to the district’s athletic code of conduct to add more “teeth.”
“I think it needs to be strengthened,” Lynch said. “I’m only one on the committee, but I will bring that up. … We’ve got some athletes (that) need to be held to a higher standard, and our policy right now isn’t strong enough.”
In an email, Lynch said he wanted the code to be more specific in addressing infractions, adding that the administrators currently have a wide range of discretion under the current code.
While Lynch didn’t address the subject, the athletic code of conduct was used to punish a recent bullying incident, but school officials later re-opened the investigation, found evidence of bullying, which requires repeated behavior, and revised the punishment.
“Schools cannot provide information of action taken,” due to federal laws, Lynch said. “It’s not that we’re sweeping it under the rug. … It’s just that we’re limited to what we can say. You’ve just got to trust our administration.”
Lynch took several minutes to address parents’ concerns about bullying.
Local parents Josh and Olivia Helton, who have three school-aged boys, were disappointed with Lynch’s presentation.
“I thought it lacked substance” and emotion, said Josh Helton. “Just because you can read from … a PowerPoint presentation doesn’t mean you believe it.
“This is where the community starts – school and family,” Josh Helton continued. “It’s our kids we need to worry about.”
Lynch provided a redacted email from a parent thanking Lynch for the presentation. The parent said it was informative and stressed that he or she should be involved in a child’s social media use.
He said staff will monitor previously unattended areas of schools after parents complained about bullying there and promised to address the district’s policy with bus drivers after a parent alleged that a bus driver said, “If I don’t see (bullying), I can’t do anything about it.”
Parents who suspect an adult is bullying their child should call Clinton County Children Services first, Lynch said, and parents should call police immediately if a violent threat is made.
Though Lynch said he doesn’t believe his staff would try to hide allegations, he said, “Schools can’t hide that stuff when Children Services get involved.”
Schools define bullying as repeated behavior that harms a student or creates an intimidating environment, according to Lynch, who said schools can investigate acts that occur off of school property if it threatens the educational process.
Those who wish to report bullying should include the names of the alleged bully, the target and witnesses as well as the behavior that occurred and the number of times and places it happened in, according to Lynch. The administrative team investigates the complaint and takes action, which can range from detention or counseling to expulsion.
“A filed complaint doesn’t automatically mean the person is guilty,” Lynch said. “Allow the process to work itself out prior to making any judgments.”
Lynch said the district’s zero-tolerance policy is misunderstood by many.
Zero-tolerance means “automatic punishment for infractions of student conduct with the intention of eliminating the undesirable behavior, not the student.”
Lynch largely blames media, particularly video games and movies, for contributing to the “societal problem” of bullying.
Quoting a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, he said children witness 800,000 acts of violence and 40,000 acts of murder before turning 18. More than 80 percent of children had video games in their home in 2010, Lynch said, and most children favored violent video games.
And, the study said, children spend 7.4 hours per day on social media devices.
Movies and games promote “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, factions, envy, selfish ambitions, dissensions, meanness, aggression, demeaning and the hurting of others,” Lynch told the room. “It’s what our kids are seeing 7.4 hours a day.
Additionally, Lynch suggested parents monitor their children’s use of media, especially social media.
“If you leave with nothing else tonight, leave with working with the policies and the protocols,” said Tracy Adams, a parent who also presented. “When you have a problem, please file the complaint.”
Adams said the policies and protocols work, if used.
“The schools aren’t here to be responsible for our children’s behaviors,” Adams said. “We are. The buck starts and stops with us as parents.”
Adams said she hopes to see parents talk to their kids and also get together to help each other to prevent bullying, and she said one parent already suggested a pep rally to raise awareness about bullying.
Josh Helton said he didn’t think a pep rally would work, saying, “They’re not going to listen to that.”
Lynch disagreed with Helton, saying pep rallies can educate students and pointed to the middle school, which was recently awarded by the Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton Counties for its efforts in addressing students’ social issues.
Lynch and Adams did not take questions from the audience. Adams said they wanted to prevent finger-pointing and to keep the meeting short. She said she and the schools will respond to questions.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.
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