A group of Reynoldsburg parents is tackling bullying issues and hoping to find solutions and suggestions to bring to school-district leaders.
Recent news stories, including one about an 8-year-old Cincinnati boy who had hung himself in his bedroom after being bullied at school, have parents and school administrators concerned, parent Beth Thompson said.
"We know that the schools are trying to combat this issue, but we recognize that there are often struggles in the management of how kids treat each other," she said.
At least 20 of those parents plan to meet at another parent's house June 21 to discuss ways to help prevent bullying.
"Our intent is to brainstorm ways parents can partner more effectively with the schools and perhaps with the district as a whole in order to help the kids of our community," Thompson said.
Those interested in participating in the discussion June 21 should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Parents, teachers and community members are welcome," she said.
Thompson will report high points of the discussion to the Reynoldsburg Board of Education at its June 27 meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.
"I hope to explain our ideas at the board meeting and offer our services to help stop bullying," she said.
School board support
Board President Joe Begeny said he hopes parents and school leaders can come up with good solutions.
"A couple of our community members have brought up bullying (on parent pages and at school board meetings), and I think we really need to keep our eyes open," he said.
Begeny said media exposure of such cases as the 8-year-old who killed himself and teenagers who were victims of any kind of bullying, including cyberbullying, along with new shows such as Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" that revolves around a suicide, have brought issues to the forefront.
"As we move forward into the next school year, we need to make sure we look at what happens in our buildings and prevent some of these tragedies," he said. "We need to find out where it is happening and stop it.
"Kids need to know they don't have to be bullied, they don't need to be bullied and we are here for them."
Board member Neal Whitman said he likes the idea of the new parent group.
"I'm always glad to see community members taking an interest in important issues and getting involved," he said. "I know from personal experience and reports from my children that some well-intentioned anti-bullying initiatives are ignored or disrespected by some students who believe the measures are ineffective."
Public schools in Ohio are required to enact policies that prohibit student bullying, intimidation or harassment, collectively defined as any intentional written, verbal, electronic or physical act that one student has taken against another student more than one time that resulted in either physical or mental harm.
The district's policy, detailed in the student handbook, prohibits bullying, harassment and any behavior that results in an "intimidating, threatening or abusive environment for the other person." Examples given in the policy include physical violence, threats, extortion of money or possessions and any intent to harm through cyberbullying, which could include posting slurs on websites or blogs and sending abusive or threatening emails or instant messages.
Whitman said the policy sounds reasonable, but when it comes up for review, he'd like to clarify a "zero-tolerance" clause.
"It could have certain legal meanings that we should be clear on," he said. "I believe any solution to bullying will have to come not only from policies, but also from the culture of the individual schools, the district as a whole and the overall community."
Board member Debbie Dunlap said the district's policy on bullying seems "very thorough."
"That being said, I am always open to the opportunity to re-examine both our board policies and how they are carried out in our schools, on our buses and at school-sponsored events," she said. "Parents know their children best and are their strongest advocates.
"I look forward to hearing what this group of parents has to say. Schools should be a place of acceptance as well as learning."
School staff involvement could be essential to finding solutions, she said.
"Parent perspective is sometimes different from those in the buildings all day long," Thompson said.
"I'd like to suggest some sort of staff survey to see if parent and staff perception of the big issues are in alignment. But if some staff wants to reach out to me now, or to attend the meeting, I'm all ears."