It is that time of year when the weather starts to break and another winter will soon be behind us. It has been a wonderful school year at Tri-Valley, and I look forward to wrapping it up with Commencement at 7 P.M. on Friday, May 24th at Jack Anderson Stadium.
One of the more troubling issues that the school district is dealing with is the topic of bullying. There is a lot of talk about bullying right now nationwide. Laws are being passed at both the state and federal levels to help address the issue and a focus on “Social Emotional Wellness” is the latest craze in the world of education. I recently heard prominent NCAA basketball coach Frank Martin respond to a question about how he had changed his coaching to reflect changes in today’s youth. His response was a bit surprising, as he simply replied that he did not believe kids had changed at all. He went on to state that it was only the parents that had changed. This statement leads to the question, if kids have not changed, where do all these bullies come from? The answer to this question is not one that is commonly discussed, perhaps because it hits a little too close to home for many of those who complain the most about the issue. Bullies come from our very own community, our neighbors, our relatives, maybe even our own homes. Children’s behaviors are learned from what they witness in their environment. If being aggressive, threatening, using foul language, saying mean things to others, over-reacting to Facebook drama, etc… is what they witness on a daily basis in their own homes… It is only natural for them to eventually begin acting in the same manner.
Another concern about the issue of bullying, is how quickly and willing many parents are to adopt the mindset that allows their children to become victims. If there is really concern about a child being mistreated, then simply calling the school is not enough. Parents should be contacting other parents, the police, and taking steps to eliminate their child’s exposure to the offender. On numerous occasions I have had parents tell me that other children are saying mean things about their child on social media. I always advise them immediately to remove their child from social media. This advice is usually followed by a quizzical look as if this had never previously occurred to them and that it is an outrageous and unreasonable solution. Simply put, if an adolescent child is allowed to be active on social media, then parents should fully expect to deal with people saying mean things about them. Following the same line of logic as Coach Martin, bullying has not changed. How parents respond to bullying is indeed what has changed.
Children need a sanctuary. They need a resting place where they are loved, comforted, and where they interact only with those that love and care for them. When this sanctuary no longer exists, they have no place to escape the constant pressure of their peers… even the bullies. Perhaps we as parents, need to reconsider the amount of time our children have access to their peers, how much influence their peers have, and take some responsibility for ensuring that their self-concept is not dictated by what others say about them on social media. That is not a problem the school can solve.
Mark K. Neal, Superintendent