By Doc Souza
The Facebook group Parents of Bullied Kids Elk Grove held their second community forum to address bullying last Thursday night at Elk Grove Elementary School.
Group founder and anti bullying advocate, Lili Devaney, organized the event that included Elk Grove School District Board member Bobbie Singh-Allen. Elk Grove Elementary School Principal Dave Neves also attended the forum.
It was nearly a year ago that Devaney shared the story of her son being bullied with Elk Grove Laguna News. Her story along with several others were posted. Devaney and other parents then spoke at a school board meeting to let the Elk Grove School District know that they felt bullying was not being addressed. That led Devaney to create the Facebook group to help give parents a place to voice their feeling and stories.
At the Thursday forum, Bobbie Singh-Allen also shared the story of how her son was bullied and how that experience led her to run for the school board. Singh-Allen has been strong a anti bullying advocate on the board ever since. I connected Devaney and Singh-Allen a few weeks ago and out of that came the Thursday forum. Singh-Allen encouraged parents to speak up and if they are not happy with the results to contact the Superintendent and board members. (see contact info at end of story)
Principal Neves spoke of his own interactions with parents and dealing with bullying. Neves said that some parents of bullies are not being accountable for the actions of their children. Neves said that he has witnessed bullying incidents and then had parents deny the incidents happened. He encouraged parents of bullied children to speak up.
Representatives from the school district also attended and talked about the various anti bullying programs in place. The district has a program called PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). They said that all the schools are implementing the plan and district employees are receiving training. Parents are encouraged to visit their website, PBIS for more information. There are online brochures and videos.
Several parents spoke at the forum and told stories of their kids being bullied and how that has affected their families. Josh and Michelle Anderson, founders of the group JJ’s Hello Foundation, spoke about their experiences dealing with bullying. Their son JJ was bullied in elementary school and eventually took his own life in February 2016 while in middle school. After the death of their son, they heard stories of other students in the Elk Grove school district that had committed suicide. Now bullying is happening again with their daughter who is in elementary school. They talked of how their daughter had said she wanted to kill herself. The family sought professional help in dealing with their daughter. The Anderson’s described bullying incidents happening at school and at home. They said the parents of one of the bullies lives down their street and encourages other kids not to play with their daughter. They said that bullied children are more likely to commit suicide. Many children dealing with bullying, engage in “cutting” where they cut their arms or body. They also deal with depression. There are many signs that parents and adults need to be aware of.
One parent spoke of how their 4th grader was bullied in 3rd grade and they approached the school at the start of this school year to ask that the teacher and school keep an eye on their child. The bullying returned this year. The parent said she witnessed her child being choked on the playground. The solution from the school was to have to the bullied child no longer speak to the bully.
Another parent spoke of her child being bullied at school by other kids and also by the teacher and principal. The parent said she was also bullied by the principal and has since changed schools.
A complaint from another parent talked of the lack of supervision in the locker room in middle and high school. They said that kids are bullied in the locker rooms as they change clothes. Parent after parent told emotional stories of their kids being bullied and what they feel is the inactions of the school district in many cases. They feel that it is unfair that they have to move their kids to other schools to avoid the bullying. They also asked that the punishment for bullying and defending yourself be changed. Because of district policies, kids that defend themselves sometimes receive the same punishment as the bully.
The topic of social media came up. Neves and Singh Allen both stressed that parents should limit their child’s exposure to social media. They encouraged parents to check on their kids and see what they are doing on their devices. Parents should know their kids passwords. Cyber Bullying is becoming more of an issue, and once something is sent out, like a photo or message, it is public forever. It can affect kids at school and in their future college and professional life. Singh-Allen said that giving a young child a phone is like giving them the keys to the car. Just as kids need to learn how to drive, they also need to learn how to use these devices that put them in touch with strangers. Social media has given bullies a new way to torment their victims. Every week there are stories of children committing suicide as a result of social media bullying.
At the end of forum Singh-Allen stressed that it is important for parents to speak up, either at school board meetings or by contacting the district directly. Not all schools deal with bullying the same way. She also encouraged parents to talk to their kids about not being a bystander and to speak up for those being bullied. Often times bystanders do nothing or even encourage the bullies. By speaking up for their peers, kids can help prevent bullying. See something, say something. Tell a teacher or an adult.
Bullies also need help to address why they are acting out. Is it something at home? Bullying affects all people, all ethnicities, all socioeconomic classes. It can happen to anyone.
Contact information for the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent.
Superintendent Christopher Hoffman SuptOffice@egusd.net
Bobbi Singh-Allen firstname.lastname@example.org
Carmine Forcina email@example.com
Nancy Chaires Espinoza firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Albiani email@example.com
Chet Madison firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Crystal Martinez-Alire email@example.com
Anthony Perez firstname.lastname@example.org