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Is Bullying Taken Seriously Enough in the BHUSD?

Harassment at school is not a new phenomenon, nor is it unique to our campuses, but questions remain about whether administrators here are doing all they can to stop it.

I read the article .

I know John and his mom and they are great people. John is a really cool kid and razor smart. What a sad reflection on our district that his impression of our school district is so negative. How brave of him to get up and speak. What a life lesson his mother is teaching him by having him voice his fears. Hopefully, this will make him stronger.

I asked my Beverly Hills neighbor (who is an incoming eighth-grader at ) if he ever met John or heard about him and he said no. He also said he hasn't seen bullying, so I’m sure the bullies are the exception. But for anyone who grew up with a bully, we all know that bullies are very crafty at hiding their cruelty. Bullying is an enduring blight that has existed since the beginning of organized education. However, in this day and age, the minute a kid is brave enough to complain, there should be serious consequences to the perpetrator. Bullying is also a warning sign that something is either wrong with the bully, or more likely, there is some dysfunction at home.

At my kids’ former private school, The Mirman School, we had many cases of on-the-playground name calling, unnecessary roughness and threats along the lines of, “I’m gonna get you after school.” The punishments were swift, made public among the administration and parents, and they were stern. If you bullied, you had to apologize by calling and writing letters.

At this quaint, exclusive private school we even had a case of extreme cyberbullying with death threats and threats of armed force. The administration at Mirman called the FBI immediately and the bully was expelled IMMEDIATELY. My son was relieved as the kid turned out to be a “friend” of his who had made trouble in the classroom and continuously distracted him during learning time, affecting his grades, despite my son’s pleas for him to stop and asking to be moved away from him.   

My children are joining the Beverly Hills Unified School District in two weeks and I read the district's Student Responsibility Contract carefully. Article 16 clearly states the BHUSD’s policy on bullying:

“To refrain from any type of bullying and/or hazing activities that would be likely to cause bodily danger, physical harm, or personal degradation or disgrace to another student. This can be electronically or in person. I understand that any student found bullying and/or hazing will be subject to suspension and/or expulsion and may be referred to the Beverly Hills Police Department.”

Why this was not enforced is yet to be discovered.

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Kevin Epling August 27, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Maureen, the answer to the question is easy. Although many schools have written policies they don't have implementation plans to accompany them. How will the policy be enforced, by whom and what are the consequensces? What are the goals?Bullying today is nothing like what is was years ago.That is why it is very important that Education and Training be a part of the process. Adults need to be retrained to understand what bullying/harassment is in todays schools. Years and years of adults looking the other way on bullying has caused the mess we are in and has caused an even greater mess with the issue of Cyber-bullying. We all need to understand what "it" is and how we will move forward.Education programs should involve all segments of the school community: from the school board members, administrators, teachers, staff members, students and yes the parents as well. We now have students across the country going to school boards and telling them what is wrong in our schools.They are tired of this problem and we need to engage them in the change process and as adults, there are times we just need to listen. Adults also need to ask themselves one simple question; Why? Why do we as adults say "we got through it" or "things got better", without asking, "Why should our kids go through that?", "Why are we not making things better for our kids?", Why are we not using what we write?" Why? Because we are the adults and we know better, don't we? Kevin Epling Co-Dir. Bullypolice USA
Brian David Goldberg, PhD August 27, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Yes the District can and should do more on the implementation side and I pledge to work harder with our administration on how we implement our policies. I do want to point out that unlike Private Schools BHUSD must operate under State and Federal laws as it relates to student privacy. We CANNOT legally share any student discipline with the public. I also want to remind our community that as a member of the Board of Education I voted for and passed one of the toughest Cyber bullying policies in the Country, when we implemented it after we were sued by the student and their parents and fought then in court and lost. The recent passage of a state law allowing districts to punish for cyber bullying is a direct result of our efforts and loss in the Courts.
Lewis Hall August 28, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Has the administration’s policy (i.e. the zero-tolerance as dictated by the School Board) exacerbated or allayed the bullying problem? Does the Board allow teachers and staff to take appropriate measures to counter bullying? Can a teacher make a determination on how to handle a situation without exposing themselves to accusations of leniency unless they dole out extreme punishment such as suspension, expulsion, or calling the police? Can they ask a student to apologize or write letters? Or is it, perhaps, easier for a teacher to simply look away? I support zero-tolerance for bullying. But punishments levied in the Beverly Hills schools are many times inappropriate. Is the School Board providing a good example themselves to the rest of the community by demonstrating kindness? I don’t think so. Just watch a Board meeting and you would agree with me that there is a lack of respect and civility. Our present Board lacks one important attribute that is badly needed here in our schools – compassion. When we don’t see caring and respect in our leadership, nurturing these qualities in our students becomes much more difficult.
Maureen Kedes Rakusin August 28, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Kevin, thank you! I never knew there was a Bullypolice, USA. I will look that up and suggest it to John and his mom as a resource.
Maureen Kedes Rakusin August 28, 2011 at 06:10 PM
David, Thanks for you hard work on behalf of this effort. I wasn't clear in that at our private school, the bullying wasn't made public to the kids...but the parents of the victim, perpetrator and the staff all knew. Then of course, when it came to the FBI case, it was all gossip but we all knew who it was. In the old days my older brother grabbed the skin of my bully and twisted it and got in his face and said, "If you ever touch my sister again, I will beat you until you are unrecognizable." That would NEVER fly in our litigious world today...but it worked! Bully a bully is what my mom always taught us, and we are all living in fear, so we don't do enough. I'm not sure what the answer is.
Maureen Kedes Rakusin August 28, 2011 at 06:12 PM
That's a great point! We are all so focused on the negative. Perhaps we need more "love-ins..." I mean, kindness coaching and tolerance awareness for the kids. The best way to combat bullying, I imagine is kid-to-kid. So, we need more of that. I'm new to the district so I don't know what kinds of tolerance programs are in place, but we certainly need them!
Kevin Epling August 28, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Maureen, Bullypolice USA was started by Brenda High after her son Jared took his life after prolonged bullying. I became involved after our son Matt took his life after a hazing incident. For more info www.bullypolice.org or www.mattepling.com. Our story will also be part of a CBS Special on Sept. 16@ 8pm. I will also be back in D.C. for the National Bullying Summit in Nov. Brian I am glad to hear that your district is taking these steps, especially on cyber issues.But as with most schools changes occur after a problem has taken place. It should never take a lawsuit to promote change. At this point the damage has been done to the parties involved and had usually been overlooked for a period of time. Yet we must move forward and acknowledge what happened to be better.We need to be preventative and a big part of that change is the students. Give them the opportunity and they can do great things. Schools I have spoken at, the students have started "peace" or "Hero" teams to help combat the bullying. One school has gone from 30 to close to 200 "Heroes" in their school. Build what your school can control, this is just not about buying a program and teaching it. It must also be organic in order to facilitate long term change. Weave it into the fabric of the schools social life not just a class session or two. Graduated response rubrics can be very helpful in explaining to students and parents what remedial steps are being taken without divulging any personal information.
Lewis Hall August 29, 2011 at 06:05 AM
Kids need role models and parents and teachers can supply that. And teachers need role models that the site administrators can supply. Also, the site administrators need role models that they get from the Supervisor and the Board Members. But when the Board Members show a lack of respect and caring for the community and each other, the system breaks down.
Trisha Smith August 31, 2011 at 10:26 AM
I hope bullying can be taken seriously by everyone, as it greatly affect the out look of every child. It can change his/her performance in school, socialization, or should I say almost everything. As a parent, I would have a peace of mind if only i can be assured that my child could go to school to learn and enjoy, and not be frightened that leads them to skips school. Recently, I stumbled upon this blog the other day which tells how a mother overcame a tragedy and found an amazing way to keep her kids safe. Check it out http://www.tsue-thatswhatshesaid.com/2011/08/your-childs-safety-your-piece-of-mind.html
Kevin Epling August 31, 2011 at 01:15 PM
Trisha, thank you for the link. Many parents like her and our family have been working to let others know there can be change. The loss or damage to ones own child is indescribable, but in that pain we must still have hope. That we can make a difference. Parents should be "on edge"not be "comfortable" with what their school is doing. Ask what is happening and what will be happening. Sitting back and not paying attention to what is happening around the country is dangerous. Those who say" not in my community", "can't happen here" or "not my child" need to understand that yes it has and is happening you just don't know it. Change should NEVER be made on the backs of our children. Policies should NEVER be written because people looked the other way and the school was sued. This means the system was broken and it was the families last resort. If there is a person within your district who doesn't think this is an issue, than they need to be educated. If the education doesn't work then the parents need to work to get that person out of the school district. They are creating an environment that threatens the safety of our children. One teacher, Administrator, Board Member can cripple an entire campaign. For both students and adults: If they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. It may seem harsh but our family and others have lived and lost great pieces of our world because of complacency.
cease bullying July 16, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I just wanted to add that it seems that many school districts especially the East Whittier School District hide this nasty little secret that Bullying happens quite a bit. They will do all they can to sweep the problem under a rock rather than try to help stop this vicious cycle. They want to ignore it, for one reason to make their schools look better for state reviews. I mean come on we know theres lots of reasons why they hide it,but the bottom line is that it will never get better untill we speak up! I ask those who's sons and daughters were plagued by a bully to write about it in these types of forums. I can pretty much guarantee you that just talking to your schools district or even the schools principal will do nothing.Keep spreading the truth through different web sites where they CAN'T shut you up or make it seem like a smaller incident than it really is.

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