Olentangy Local School District leaders are hoping to give parents tools to help combat cyberbullying at a presentation and seminar.
From 7 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at Olentangy Liberty High School, 3584 Home Road, the district's Parent Programs Team will host author and career coach Tim Conrad to "empower parents and community members with information about the ways that teens and tweens are using social media with a special emphasis on how to identify and respond to cyberbullying."
Allisha Barnes serves as the school-community liaison for the Parent Programs Team, composed of parents from each of the district's buildings to serve as a link between them and district leaders.
Barnes said the group plans three main events each year, and said she felt cyberbullying was an important topic.
"Obviously, social media and cyberbullying is just a huge issue now," she said. "All our presentations focus on parenting and what parents can do at home to help with a variety of topics. ... So we really kind of home in on the parent piece of things. I know a lot of parents are struggling with this idea of social media and technology and how to raise their kids in the age of technology."
Olentangy spokeswoman Kristyn Wilson said the district is aware that cyberbullying "is a problem nationwide," citing a Pew Research Center survey that showed 59 percent of teens in the United States have experienced bullying or harassment online.
"We want students to know that if they say something, we will do something," she said. "Awareness is the first step to stopping this problem. We believe it's our responsibility to educate parents about the issue to help prevent cyberbullying from happening. Parents are the first line of defense, and we need to work together to educate and protect students."
Wilson said the district has a reporting system through Public School Works that allows students to anonymously report issues that affect education or safety, including cyberbullying.
Conrad is a local career coach, seminar teacher and speaker. His name was brought to the group by parents who saw him speaking on a local news program, and Barnes said there was a quick consensus that he would work for the program.
"We thought it covered a lot of the areas that we wanted our parents to focus on, plus he fit in our budget and was local," she said. "So it all kind of worked out."
Barnes said she knows parents won't become experts after one presentation but added she hopes they leave armed with a few more tools to identify cyberbullying and assist from there.
That's especially important, she said, because the district isn't always in a position to help. When things happen outside the school, she said, "There's only so much we can do."
"I always want to make sure our parents leave with a better understanding of the topic, whatever the topic may be, and have something tangible that they can take with them to start implementing with their students," she said. "If each parent walks away with those types of things, I feel like it's a successful presentation."
For more information, visit www.olentangy.k12.oh.us.