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School officials take new tack on bullying

Published: Sat, March 26, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.


Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca

By Kristine Gill



Education and not punishment could be the solution to bullying for Austintown schools.

That’s the hope of assistant principals David Mullane and Jim Penk of Austintown Middle School. The two are looking to implement a Saturday school that would teach students accused of bullying about the impact of their actions.

“I usually ask a bully if they’ve ever been picked on,” Mullane said. “It’s really amazing when you make them stop and think about that.”

Mullane and Penk have had a Saturday-school plan in the works but revamped it after a recent conference for educators in Columbus on bullying. Now the two-hour class would begin with a type of training video — they’ve screened more than a dozen — followed by discussion and activities.

A class would take place once a month with an estimated 15 students.

“I really like that they want to be proactive,” Superintendent Vince Colaluca said, adding that the district partners with the Help Hotline Crisis Center to provide similar assistance. Its website TeenHealthIssues.org addresses bullying and other problems teens face. The Safe and Drug Free Schools initiatives that would address bullying have lost federal funding and are at risk of disappearing in the district.

Colaluca said the Saturday program would have to be approved by the board of education.

AMS also is looking into an anonymous reporting service that would give students the option of identifying themselves when sending tips to school administrators and counselors about bullying they’ve observed or experienced. A company has offered to let the school pilot the program for the rest of the academic year at no charge. Continuing the service would cost the district $100 a month.

Among the difficulties AMS staff encounters are the nuances of bullying incidents. If a student is caught using his cell phone or violating the dress code, an agreed-upon progression of punishments is enforced after each offense. Verbal warnings usually are followed by detentions, then in-school and out-of-school suspensions.

Not so with bullying.

“That’s why the reporting part is huge, because that’s why you can’t set the line of discipline in stone,” Mullane said. “By the time we find out, you’ve already done something that constitutes a steeper punishment.”

Penk announced the plan to a lunchroom full of 400 students recently and said the idea of having to come to school on the weekend was enough to get them talking.

“That’s what happens when you can lay out the discipline,” he said.

The student handbook and code of conduct would be updated with the new consequences. It lists policies on assault, battery, fighting, intimidation and harassment among other offenses but not under the term “bullying.”

AMS documents reports of bullying with bright-orange forms. Bright-blue forms go home to parents of students accused of bullying when an incident is reported.

“We have seen no recidivism after they sign that blue form,” Mullane said.

Boardman High School has a Saturday school that acts as an alternative to suspension in which students do silent work beginning at 8 a.m. Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said students who have committed infractions for bringing cell phones to schools, excessive tardiness or harrassment are sent.

“Children like to sleep in on Saturdays,” Lazzeri said. “They come in. They can’t sleep. They’ve got to bring work with them. It’s not a pleasant thing.”


1imwildflower(15 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

WE'RE paying for the classes, so that, hopefully, ALL our kids will be safe from bullying. I'd like to see evidence-based outcomes on this type of program. I hope it has been shown to be successful in preventing bullying. Part of the problem with bullies is that that's all they know--the bullying program wouldn't get much support from some of these kids' parents, because home is where a lot of these kids learned to bully!

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2seminole(476 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

,,,or handle it old school: kick the bully's a--. Bully's are just insecure punks. This "education" is another way to pacify the whinning parents of these punks that have not taken the time to spend time with their kids then cry when their little prince or princess gets rounded up for being an idiot and bullying. Did anyone see the youtube shot of the little punk taunting the big kid? Justice served...

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3campbellgreek(1 comment)posted 5 years, 3 months ago


How do we deal with are kids today ?

We see the way they act and they things they do , but yet we do nothing .
Fighting in schools and at home and yet we do nothing
Kids talk to grown men and women like they are children them selves
I seen a child get beat up by 5 kids two years older them him and yet the parents did nothing ,but sit and watch laugh and yet they did nothing the mother of the child confronted them and yet the parents did nothing . The children talk to the women like she was beneath them .
When the police were called nothing was done not the kids nor there parents paid for there crimes and yet nothing was done . We see a lot of things that kids do and yet we do nothing the courts hold the parents responsible but the kids go free and think its okay they can do it its not them that is going to get in trouble .what I don’t get is why nothing is getting done . What is wrong with are system these days . One child said “ we’re port Rican u can’t do anything to us” in my thoughts we have given children to many rites or children services have made it to were we can’t discipline kids in spanking them or we have them at are doorsteps . So now all a child has to do is say that they will call children services and parents get scared .
We ask are selves why are kids robbing and killing and doing drugs ? Its because we let them with are child safety laws . And that’s only half of it the other half is parents don’t make time to spend with there kids . They work come home eat dinner and that’s it . The only time they talk is if they got in trouble or things are needed and that’s not for all parents and kids but a lot of them . There are a lot of cases where a women has kids and she is alone raising them .
The fathers have not been there to help emotionally or financially , and the mother is over whelmed with the fact that she don’t have time to make sure she is able to take care of her self.
Fathers as well that have there kids and no mother to help raise their child .

In conclusion to all the facts these are the reasons we have so many kids becoming criminals ,and so much hard ship
And to in stall the word that we the usa has been given from other countries “LAZY” is what we got .

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4endthismess(463 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Simple solution...send all bully pukes by court order to the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center, and that is where they get to finish out their education. No transportation provided. Put the burdon back on the parents who allow this behavior to leach into the public. This is learned, not a condtion someone is born with. Do not bend the rules. No feeling sorry, No second chances. No whining. No Saturday school. No detention. No watching films on why to not be a bully. You go to school with only your own type, mean, hateful, mouthy, rotten, trouble makers. If you bully you go. SEND these punks OUT of the tax payers public school system. This will also help keep public school costs down. Schools should be reserved for only those students who are there to learn. PERIOD.

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5vor2011(14 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

End this mess.... I wish that the solution was this easy. The problem is there are so many degrees to harassment. Bullying is not an action, there are actions that constitute bullying such as harassement, teasing, taunting, hazing, etc. You are exactly right when you suggest that the parents need to be held accountable... it seems that at least with a Saturday School program the parents are forced to transport their child to the school on a day when they might not otherwise have to. At least in this situation, it appears that administrators are trying to address the issue. Accordingly, all of the research suggests that creating a school wide awareness about what actions define bullying and educating students, teachers, and parents about such behaviors is the best approach to handling most socially based bullying. Physical and other types of bullying come with a whole different set of problems.

The bottom line is, in this blog everyone is talking about saving the tax payers money. Ironically who pays for prisions and JJC?? We do.. the tax payers. A Saturday School program run by school administrators at Austintown Middle School, a detail printed in another article about this program, will cost the tax payers $0.00. In the event that they chose to implement the reporting program which they are assessing on a free trial basis... the cost is $1200 a year... something for which grants could be written. The bottom line is, this story is about educators taking steps towards handling a really big problem. With everything that is going on with school funding and senate bill 5, our local school leaders are taking a stand for our children. We might not like every last detail about their approach, but I for one an thrilled to see they are working for our children.

As everyone has stated, what will do about our families? The state passes bill after bill placing countless unfunded demands on our schools who are now responsible for serving breakfast, measuring body fat index and adding dating violence to the curriculum... all things that the parents of the kids should be doing. How about some legislation giving school officials and social workers real penalties for parents who do not meet the standards their kids need in order to be successful.. you know... complicating and expensive things like love, encouragment, manners, patience, time, affection, upbringing, life experiences, safety, warmth, clothing, food, water, respect, hope, ambition........

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