Peninsula School District Academic Officer Dan Gregory gave an update last week on the district’s Harassment Intimidation Bullying Task Force, as well as its suicide prevention efforts.
“Bullying is a word that is thrown around quite a bit in our society,” Gregory said, noting that the HIB Task Force that was formed last fall was looking at broad-based causes and solutions to bullying as opposed to focusing on a specific incident or incidents.
Harassment, intimidation and bullying are prohibited according to Peninsula School District Policy 3207, which states: “The district is committed to a safe and civil educational environment for all students, employees, volunteers and patrons, from harassment, intimidation or bullying.
“ ‘Harassment, intimidation or bullying’ means any intentional written, verbal or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic in RCW 9A.36.080(3) (race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental or physical disability), or other distinguishing characteristics, when the act: Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property, has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education, is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment, has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.”
The task force has held two meetings, Gregory said, one Oct. 25 and the other Dec. 13.
Nineteen members currently make up the task force, including 10 district staff members, seven parents and two community members.
“What makes a bully?” Gregory asked, noting that bullying is a learned behavior that can be prevented or stopped.
Part of ending that type of behavior means getting peer observers or witnesses to respond differently, Gregory said.
“At times, bystanders to bullying are afraid to step in and intervene,” he said.
Getting a broader message out about bullying includes schools, homes and communities within the district, Gregory said.
“It’s not just the school’s responsibility to intervene,” he said.
The Coalition for the Prevention of Teen Suicide currently has 28 members, Gregory said, including 18 community members and organization leaders, six district employees and four parents.
The group has met monthly since August, he said.
One of the big concerns the coalition is grappling with is the negative stigma of mental illness, a common factor in suicides.
“At what point do you say enough is enough and you get help?” Gregory asked. “Those are hard questions to answer.”
Gregory said the coalition is looking to combine efforts with the Pierce County Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which supports activities to prevent, eliminate or reduce violence to, by or among children, youth and their families in unincorporated areas of the county.
“This is important work, and we thank Dan for his efforts,” Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said after Gregory’s presentation.
MARY LEE SQUIRES AWARD
This year’s winners of the Mary Lee Squires Teamwork Award are Wendy Birnie-Buri and Denise Rohde-Killoran, licensed practical nurses at Discovery Elementary School and Gig Harbor High School, respectively.
During the previous school year, they worked together at Goodman Middle School.
The award is given to those who have demonstrated exemplary collaboration with their fellow employees. The purpose of the award is to recognize teamwork and collaboration in both attitude and action.
Squires, the namesake of the award, was a longtime Peninsula School District educator and Gig Harbor resident. Her enthusiasm for others served as a positive example and inspiration to students, colleagues and community members.
Cuzzetto presented Birnie-Buri and Rohde-Killoran with certificates to commemorate the award.
“This is an invaluable team,” Goodman Middle School Principal Rhonda Taylor said in opening remarks. “It’s obvious they love what they do.”
Both recipients were grateful for the recognition.
Birnie-Buri thanked students, staff members and the other nurses with whom she works with in the district.
“It’s made it the best job in the world,” she said.
“Because we’re a team, we hardly ever see each other,” Rohde-Killoran said.
BOARD RECOGNITION MONTH
On Jan. 2, then-Gov. Christine Gregoire issued a proclamation to declare January 2013 “School Board Appreciation Month,” which Cuzzetto read in its entirety.
“So, thank you for all you do,” he said to the board members present: Rick Jones, Vice President Matt Wilkinson and President Wendy Wojtanowicz.
“You all get double pay this month,” Cuzzetto joked regarding the unpaid positions.Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.