Archive for Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bullying at BHS off to start

August 25, 2005

Although it's already occurred, even before the first day of classes, bullying will not be tolerated at Baldwin High School this year, or so says Supt. James White.

An incident of bullying occurred at the BHS pre-school dance Aug. 12, well ahead of the first day of school on Aug. 18. The victim of the bullying was the same student who had suffered the indignation last November.

His mother, Jennifer Brewster, reported it to BHS administrators the following Monday. She didn't want to go through another year of her son not wanting to go to school, she said.

"After last year, I wasn't about to put up with him dreading to go to school," Brewster said.

Action has been taken and White has stepped up efforts, especially in light of the recent lawsuit which awarded $250,000 to a Tonganoxie student who had been bullied for years and finally quit school as a result.

"We think it is a serious issue and want to make sure it does not continue to occur in the Baldwin School District," White said. "We just do not want kids coming to school fearful of what older students might do.

"We just won't put up with it," he said.

In response to the incident and to try and put a stop to bullying as quickly as possible, White has contacted an expert in the field to come in September for sessions with district staff and teachers, students and patrons. A date for the sessions hasn't been set.

There's good reason for such action, including the recent Tonganoxie court action. But, Baldwin City Police Chief Mike McKenna, whose department has been involved with the high school situation, points to the numerous nationally incidents -- such as Columbine in Colorado where several people were killed in school shootings -- which demand attention on bullying.

"In incidents where we've had shootings in schools there is one commonality and that is the shooters have evolved and have been bullied," said McKenna. "FBI and Secret Service studies have shown bullying involved in the shootings."

McKenna said the boy who was bullied, a 15-year-old sophomore at BHS, reported two incidents to the department on Aug. 16. The first incident happened at the opening dance at BHS Aug. 12 and it was followed by another on Aug. 15, which wasn't on school property.

"He reported the boys had been yelling obscenities at him," McKenna said. "He described that it started at the high school dance on Friday. The kids were doing what's called 'slam dancing,' where they run into each other. One of the ones he (the victim) accidentally ran into threatened him.

"Throughout the night, several young men would come up to him and run into him and that included sandwiching him between two of them," he said. "He said he was having pain from it and went home."

That was followed by more threats away from school the next week.

"Then, on Monday, Aug. 15, he was walking down the sidewalk in the 600 block of Sixth Street when two young men drove by in a Jeep, rolled down the windows and yelled obscenities at him, degrading remarks at him and threatening remarks," said McKenna. "He came to the station on Aug. 16 and we took a report. On Aug. 18, one suspect came to the station, was interviewed and gave a statement. He was given notice to appear in Municipal Court for disorderly conduct."

The boy cited is 18 years old and a senior at BHS. The other boys allegedly involved with either of the incidents have not been cited as of yet, he said. What will result will be determined at a September court appearance.

"It'll be up to the city judge," said McKenna.

The chief said many people don't understand the effects of bullying, but it's an ingrained part of society.

"Bullying you see it in children and it lasts throughout life," he said. "Eighty-five percent of people are not bullied or are bullies and they don't do anything about it when they see it. You see it in the work place, sporting events, it's everywhere in our society."

White knows about it and wants to educate the entire district. He is making arrangement with Joe Coles of the Southwest Kansas Education Service, who has worked with 20 to 25 school districts in the state on the issue of bullying.

"He has a great message for students, staff and patrons and we want them to hear it," said White.

Coles' schedule is booked solid, but there maybe a chance that he'll be able to come to Baldwin in September, but White doesn't know for sure yet.

"I hate to drag this out," he said. "The September date will hopefully work out."

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