District 86 Tackles Bullying
Officials are taking steps because they believe students have a right to feel safe in school.
School District 86 is preparing to launch a districtwide initiative to identify, prevent and address bullying. The district's plans will coincide with its recognition of National Bullying Awareness Week, which is Nov. 15 - Nov. 19.
"Hinsdale District 86 strongly believes that a student's right to feel safe in school is paramount and contributes significantly to his or her capacity for learning and social development," said Dr. Nicholas D. Wahl, superintendent of schools for Hinsdale Township High School District 86.
"District 86 is committed to providing students with a safe and comfortable learning environment. Bullying is unacceptable in all its forms whether verbal, physical or online. Addressing this problem requires a collaborative effort by students, parents, faculty, community leaders and law enforcement at the regional, district and school levels," said Wahl.
Wahl will lead a newly formed District 86 anti-bullying committee, comprised of students, parents and administrators. This committee is charged with conducting an ongoing review of best practices as it relates to prevention and intervention and developing/enhancing District 86 anti-bullying approaches. The committee will also identify ongoing programming on this topic for students, parents and faculty throughout the year.
In December, the district will also host a breakfast for superintendents and board members of local elementary school districts to discuss common challenges and opportunities, including bullying.
As part of National Bullying Awareness Week, the district will announce a new resource for students who witness and/or are a victim of bullying/harassment. While students are encouraged to talk with any Hinsdale District 86 faculty or staff member about such incidents, the district recognizes that some students may not be comfortable doing so. In order to allow students to make district personnel aware that someone is being bullied, District 86 has instituted three new mechanisms that allow students and parents to report incidents anonymously, including school specific telephone hotlines and email addresses, as well as a confidential online reporting system available through the district's Web site.
Wahl also serves on the DuPage Regional Office of Education's Anti-Bullying Task Force. In this role, he works with other local school superintendents, law enforcement representatives and parents to examine national best practices on how schools can support bullying prevention and intervention.
"The Anti-Bullying Task Force is in the process of finalizing a policy to address bullying that aligns with the state's social, emotional and learning standards already in place," said Dr. Darlene Ruscitti, DuPage County regional superintendent of schools.
"This document was developed in collaboration between school districts, legal counsel, law enforcement, parents and students. Once finalized, districts will have the opportunity to adopt the policy," she said.
"Additionally, I'm excited to announce that in early 2011, the task force will release a tool kit for districts that features successful approaches and best practices to addressing bullying, including workshops, professional development strategies and more. My hope is that this tool kit will serve as a guide for districts to further enhance their programming around this issue."
Students at Hinsdale South and Central High Schools will "Stand Up" against bullying through a series of events hosted by the schools and organized by student groups in recognition of National Bullying Awareness Week.
At Hinsdale South, students have written short skits about bullying that they will perform at the beginning of each class period throughout the day. Teachers will then lead related classroom discussions. Students will also wear T-shirts that feature statistics about bullying to raise awareness of the problem and will be encouraged to sign pledges promising to refrain from bullying and to stand up for others being bullied. These events have been organized by student groups, including Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE); Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD); Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA); and Diversity Club.
Hinsdale Central students have developed a short video featuring testimonials from students discussing their experiences with bullying. The video will be shown to all students during their physical education class, following a presentation by school administrators about the different forms of bullying that exist. Faculty and staff will also attend a professional development training that focuses on strategies to best help students who report and/or are a victim of bullying/harassment.
Prior to National Bullying Awareness Week, all students received wristbands that serve as a reminder to respect fellow students. These events have been organized by student groups, including Breaking Down the Walls, a group established by the Character Counts Committee, which promotes upstanding personal character among Hinsdale Central students, faculty and staff; Spectrum, which supports students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and Prism, the school's Gay-Straight alliance.
During the Board of Education meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 15 the board will issue an Anti-Bullying Campaign Proclamation.
"The Board of Education is proud of District 86's administration and students for their efforts to raise awareness of and stop bullying and harassment," said Dennis Brennan, school board president. "This proclamation demonstrates the board's commitment to ongoing prevention efforts that will continue until bullying no longer exists in our schools."