IRONWOOD - Staff members used part of an in-service day to tackle bullying Friday at Luther L. Wright School in Ironwood.
Heidi Lauzon, crisis prevention institute instructor and behavior consultant for the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District, spoke to faculty about how to address bullying.
The session dealt with student-to-student bullying, focusing on the bully, the bullied and the bystander.
Lauzon discussed definitions of bullying, roles students play in bullying situations and what is considered bullying and what is not.
For example, teasing is often mistaken as bullying. Teasing, according to stopbullying.gov, isn't intended to cause harm and is reciprocal between the two parties involved. Usually when someone becomes upset because of teasing, it stops.
With taunting, the act is one-sided and is intended to cause harm, therefore it is classified as bullying.
The best practice in bullying prevention and response to bullying is to stop bullying on the spot, find out what happened and support all kids involved, not just the person being bullied.
"All kids have played the role of bully, victim or bystander," Lauzon said. "It's when they become good at one role when there is a major problem."
According to Lauzon, many schools take a "zero tolerance" policy on bullying, but it isn't effective enough.
"Bullying is not just a healthy stage that everyone goes through," Lauzon said. "It's destructive and anti-social and needs to be addressed by using a social solution."
Another issue addressed was bystanders who don't act when someone is being bullied. According to Lauzon, many have the excuses that it's not their problem, they are friends with the bully and not with the bullied, the bullied person "had it coming," they are afraid they will become bullied or they don't know what to do.
"We need to give them the skills to help," Lauzon said. "We need to teach them who to go to or what to do to help."
With today's technology, cyberbullying has become an issue for kids when they are outside of school. Students can receive harassing messages online or through text messages, and even have personal images or messages posted online that were never intended to become public.
According to Lauzon, most bullying takes place during unstructured times or in unstructured places, including in the lunchroom, on the bus, on the playground or online, where things can go unseen.
"Are there any schools that are bully-free?" Lauzon asked. "No, but the first step is identifying the problem."
Staff discussed the district's policy on bullying, and worked on action plans to help stop it.
"Whenever I am dealing with a child who is being bullied, I always tell them, 'You don't deserve to be mistreated,'" Lauzon said. "All you can do is all you can do, but we need to get started, assess the problem, engage each other in this, create policies and rules to help the students, build safe environments for them and educate our students and staff."
According to middle-high school principal Michelle Kanipes, things have been in place to help students effectively do the right thing by using positive behavior intervention strategies. She said it was great to see the staff willing to be more involved with the effort.
Lauzon was encouraged by what she saw.
"They're aware of the impact bullying has and are willing to implement best practices to help these kids," Lauzon said. "Without giving them the proper skill set, it is not going to stop, and they are willing to do whatever they can."