Bullying: Hobbs Schools consider anti-bullying policy
edited: Sunday, November 18, 2007
By Marie Wadsworth
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2007
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Published in the Hobbs News-Sun on Nov. 4, 2007, and published by the Associated Press in newspapers throughout the United States.
Growing up, many youngsters learn the saying "sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you."
But they can, and it can last a lifetime.
With the increased amount of violence in today's society, people are becoming more and more aware of the impact bullying has in the schools and the community, Hobbs Schools officials said. As a result, Hobbs Municipal Schools is condsidering adopting an anti-bullying policy.
"It (bullying) is not anything new," said Peggy Appleton, Hobbs Municipal Schools' compliance officer and a member of the district's Safe Schools Healthy Students committee. "It's just that society is starting to recognize the detriment of bullying to kids and adults as well."
The proposed bullying policy states that Hobbs Schools believes in providing an educational environment for students, employees, volunteers and families that's free from bullying, violence, threats, name calling, intimidation and harrassment.
The Hobbs School Board had the first reading of the anti-bullying policy at its October board meeting. If it's approved at the December board meeting, the anti-bullying policy will take affect immediately, but it won't be published in the student handbooks until next year.
"We live in a media and elecronic world and technology allows us to define what bullying, harrassment and different groupings of what would be considered bullying," said James Johns, Hobbs Schools' director of special services and a member of Safe Schools Healthy Students. "All those things have a major impact in the educational setting and we want our kids to be successful as they can be in the educational setting and if you can do the best to be preventative ... in these areas you're producing a more conducive learning environment."
Despite that awareness, some Hobbs parents contend bullying is still a problem in Hobbs Schools.
In a phone interview Wednesday, a Hobbs parent said her child had experienced bullying in Hobbs Schools this year. The parent said two girls ganged up and made fun of her junior high child on a daily basis. In response to the problem, the parent took her child out of Hobbs Schools and moved her to a school in Lovington.
"When you don't have money in Hobbs, you might as well kiss your education goodbye. You're going to spend your time trying to protect yourself instead of trying to learn something," the parent said. "The teachers, they don't care; the school system in Hobbs cares more about how kids dress instead of what a kid learns. The teachers have their hands tied. When a child acts up in class or school, the teacher can't do anything.
"The bottom line is society has taken our kids away from us. ... We can't do anything to punish them and this atmosphere is contributing to the bullying going on in Hobbs."
Since moving her child to Lovington Schools six weeks ago, the Hobbs parent said her child hasn't been bullied and her grades had improved. But this wasn't the first time her child had attended Lovington Schools. The child went there in third and fourth grades.
The Hobbs parents said her child will remain in Lovinton until graduation.
"It's a different atmosphere there (Lovington)," she said. "The adults have more control over the kids. I feel the kids respect the adults and that keeps the bullying down to a dull roar. It's not front page news like it is here."
Last year the New Mexico Public Education Department mandated school districts across the state adopt anti-bullying policies, but the district's Safe Schools Healthy Students committee had been working on a policy the past two years, said Debbie Cooper, assistant superintendent for elementary instruction and member of Safe Schools Healthy Students.
The proposed anti-bullying policy expands upon measures the district already had in its student handbooks, Cooper said. It's also based on anti-bullying policies from school districts in New Mexico and Minnesota and strategies by school counselor Stan Davis' book, "Schools Where Everyone Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying."
"After it defines bullying, it's going to give procedures to deal with bullying," Johns said. "It gives you an outlok for investigation ... and it gives you a means and methodology for handling the bullying that's been identified and the consequences."
The consequences for school employees who violate the proposed policy include warnings, reprimands, suspension and termination. Students in violation of the anti-bullying policy can be subjected to disciplinary actions such as suspension and explusion.
"I think (the policy) gives additional tools on tops of tools they already had," Johns said. "We're giving them the latest additional tools or methodology to handle bullying. We want people to have the optimal chance possible to thrive and strive for excellence in the classroom, and we don't want something like bullying keeping them from striving for excellence."
At least one Hobbs parent, however, remains skeptical.
"They're dreaming," said the parent whose child was bullied. "It will never work until adults can gain respect from children. Until then, children will continue to run all over us; bullying will continue in the schools and everywhere."