By Jennifer Wohlleb
Bullying prevention has always been on the front lines of the fight for safer schools. Now it has its own event, tackling the problem from all angles.
“We’ve always focused on bullying any time we talk about school safety issues because it is just one of those ubiquitous behaviors that happens in every school district,” said Kerri Schelling, the Kentucky School Boards Association’s director of Board Team Development. “But there are so many things to focus on at the annual Safe Schools, Successful Students conference that you can’t really do it justice.”
Not any more. KSBA and the Kentucky Center for School Safety will host the first statewide Bullying Prevention Symposium on March 19 at Eastern Kentucky University. The Office of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers and the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children are co-sponsoring the event.
“Since I have been in a training role, each year there has been an increase in requests for training about bullying, for teachers, administrators and students,” said Lee Ann Morrison, training coordinator for the Kentucky Center for School Safety. Those requests spurred the idea.
“In the past at the safe schools conference, we would hit bullying as one general overall topic,” Morrison said. “With this, we’re breaking down every aspect of bullying and offering sessions with solutions.”
The symposium will tackle the larger issues of traditional face-to-face bullying and the emerging issue of cyberbullying and will offer numerous workshops that offer definitive solutions. It will open with keynote speaker Kevin Jennings, former assistant deputy secretary of Education who led the Obama administration’s anti-bullying initiative.
“He will frame the issues and let the attendees know why they’re there, what the problem is and how it’s affecting our country,” Morrison said. “From there, we’ve broken bullying down to various aspects, from the psychology behind bullying to what to watch for to some real concrete bullying prevention programs.”
Kaye Randall, author of Mean Girls: 101 ½ Strategies for Working with Relational Aggression, will wrap up the symposium.
Schelling said the event is geared toward educators whose schools are at all stages of dealing with bullying.
“Some districts don’t have anything in place because they’ve either been very fortunate and it has not been a problem for them or because, quite frankly, they haven’t known it was going on or what to do,” she said. “We’ll have some districts there that have spent a lot of time, money and effort thinking about it and we know that they need different things. We’re trying to cover the waterfront so everyone who comes can choose the pieces they need most so when they get back they can immediately start implementing.”
Morrison said everyone from parents to school board members can benefit by attending the bullying prevention symposium.
“Until school board members understand what school administrators are dealing with, they’re not going to know what policies need to be in place,” she said. “I really see this as an across-the-board training: FRYSC workers, KECSAC, teachers, administrators, parents … we have geared our sessions to be appealing to different groups. You won’t find a time where the sessions are just for teachers or for administrators. I think everyone will have something to choose from.”
Schelling said this event will not take the place of the annual safe schools conference, which has been held every fall for the past 17 years.
“This is an issue that Kentucky has always battled,” she said. “Many districts do it very well ... but bullying is one of those topics that never stays still; it evolves, it changes, it morphs. You put something in place to battle one form and another form pops up. It is a constant battle and we felt like the time had come to really be able to focus on this issue.”
Morrison said organizers plan for this to become an annual event. “As bullying changes we can really stay ahead of the curve and not be reactive, but can continue to be proactive to this issue and allow the districts to be proactive,” she said.
“I don’t think bullying is going to go away, but neither are we,” Schelling said.
— Registration information has been mailed. Click here or here for additional information or to register online.