Changing mindsets.

Creating a better culture.

For a group of Reynoldsburg parents and some school board members, those are two overall goals to work toward as a way to combat bullying.

An initial meeting of parents drew 20 to 25 people in June. Beth Thompson said she and other parents want to partner with school officials to create a safe environment for students.

"One thing we would like to change is the idea that you are doing something wrong by telling an adult about a person being bullied," Thompson said. "Helping a friend to be safe is not snitching.

"We need to change the mindset of young people so that they understand that the reporting of someone being bullied is not wrong. It is the action of the person doing the bullying that is wrong."

She said any anti-bullying efforts should involve all students, not just student council groups or sports teams or honor roll students but a wide range of the student body.

The group plans to work with incoming Superintendent Melvin Brown; Nick Keisel, the district's head of safety and security; and building principals.

Thompson said she is scheduled to meet with Brown July 19.

"Creating a better culture is what needs to be done," board member Debbie Dunlap said. "I also think a districtwide effort would be the most effective."

Dunlap said she was involved in an anti-bullying effort several years ago at Waggoner Road Middle School that involved role-playing.

"We would act out situations and ask kids how they would handle that," she said.

Thompson said parents at the meeting talked about "revisiting the need for and the definition of respect."

"What does respect look like and sound like?" she said. "Students need to be clear about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors."

She said other suggestions included:

* Setting up a "bully box" for anonymous reporting of bullying behavior.

* Establishing some sort of check-in system for students to ensure their emotional needs are being met.

* Providing more adult supervision in non-classroom areas, such as playgrounds, hallways, near bathrooms and cafeterias.

* Providing additional training for staff members on how to build good relationships and talk effectively to students and parents about disruptive behavior.

* Increasing the number of parent volunteers in schools.

"We talked about possibly a biweekly homeroom meeting where kids could express concerns along with celebrations," Thompson said.

She said specific areas of concern are the words children are using, both spoken and on social media.

"Threats of violence or sexual assault or advising someone to hurt themselves need to be taken seriously, whether spoken or captured on social media," she said.

Board President Joe Begeny said he attended the parent meeting and thinks the group is capable of good progress.

"I don't think we can ever really solve the bullying problem completely, but we can't stop trying to do more," he said. "It is not the same as when we were in school. Now with social media, the bullying never stops and goes with you outside of school.

"We are beyond the point of saying that some bullying is normal – we know that we can do more and must to more to help," he said.

Thompson said she realizes that the perspectives offered at the June meeting were mostly from parents.

"These are our children and we are hearing things from them ... We want to reach out to staff in the buildings, to make sure what we are hearing meshes with what they are seeing, so everyone is on the same page," she said.

pwillis@thisweeknews.com

@PamelaThisWeek