FARMINGTON — Superintendent Christian Elkington engaged in a discussion with the Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors on Monday, March 6, around the topic of bullying.

At the meeting, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28, but was rescheduled due to weather, Elkington presented two articles on the topic of bullying and mental health.

“The [administration] team is taking a good hard look at this to see what else we can do,” Elkington said. “How we can work better with parents. If we still have bullying and working with our students, then we still have more work to do.”

The two articles Elkington shared were Bullying doesn’t look like it used to. Experts share how to fix it by Madeline Holcombe of CNN and American teens are unwell because American society is unwell by Kate Woodsome of The Washington Post.

“Many times, conflict and bullying are confused,” Elkington said. “We have to do a better job of informing the parents, informing our kids and informing the public of what the difference really is between conflict and bullying. There are some big differences.”

In Holcombe’s article on bullying, she includes a quote from author and professor John Rovers stating, “For adults doing this research, you kind of assume that bullying consists of being stuffed in a locker and beaten up on the playground. We found out that that really has remarkably little effect.”


In the article, Holcombe touches upon different forms of bullying, such as identity bullying — bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity — cyberbullying and social bullying —leaving someone out or turning peers against them.

These different forms have varying degrees of impact on student mental health according to a study included in the article. The results of that study showed bullying did have an impact on feelings of sadness or suicidal thoughts, but that they did not equally impact students.

Elkington spoke on the impact social media has on youth, stating that “the longer you are on social media in some way, the darker you go, the further you go, and the more negative it gets.”

Elkington also shared a point that was made to him on schools that have strict rules on social media use. “The schools that have some of the most stringent guidelines against using social media and so forth, you know what those are? There in Silicon Valley,” he said.

One board member addressed Elkington regarding the connection between bullying and sportsmanship. “You also talked just before that about all these wonderful awards our kids are getting for sportsmanship,” she asked. “So how does that balance out and is there any way to use the good to kind of topple the bad?”

“Our kids as a group, when they have a vision and a mission and an expectation rise to that,” Elkington stated. “A lot of the difficulties we see on social media at our schools are students to student.”

“A lot of the conflict/bullying that occurs,” he continued, “a lot of it’s conflict happens away from the school, happens at night and happens on the weekends.”

Elkington stated that it is an issue that has no clear solutions, but it is something that administrators must be aware of so that a viable solution can be found for the benefit of the students.

“We have to figure this out because it interferes with student learning, and interferes with student attendance and interferes with student interactions, and we don’t have a good answer yet,” he stated.

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