JAY — Results of a survey regarding bullying in RSU 73 school were shared June 10 with staff, administrators and community members.

The meeting was part of step one to get the information gathered and shared with plans for additional work over the summer, Superintendent Scott Albert said.

Jenna Cote, special education assistant director/504 coordinator reviewed the differences between rude, mean and bullying:

• Rude is inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else. Restorative practices would be the consequences of such behavior.

• Mean is purposely saying or doing something to hurt someone once [or twice]. Suspension, restorative practices or alternative discipline could be the consequences.

• Bullying is a series of mean acts carried out against a single person repeatedly over time. Suspension, possibility of expulsion or alternative discipline could be the consequences.

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Recognizing bullying is so hard, Cote said. “Sometimes there is a fine line between being mean and bullying,” she noted.

Bullying is about having power over the group, making the victim feel powerless, Jennifer Stone, social worker at Spruce Mountain Elementary School, shared. Hurtful messages are spread over social media outside of school, parents aren’t always aware, she said.

One woman asked about making sure consequences are consistent from primary to high school, whether for the victim or the one bullying.

“I hope the principals will work on this over the summer,” Cote responded.

For primary school students the questions were made as easy as possible, requiring yes or no answers, Michael Glynn, principal at the time, said. Almost 89% of students knew what bullying was, almost 84% said it was a big problem and 9% didn’t know who to talk to if they or someone else was being bullied.

That was the most concerning question for Glynn, that students didn’t know there are adults in the building they could go to.

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At the elementary school 97.5% of students knew what bullying was, 68% said it was somewhat of a problem, 46% had witnessed bullying and almost 50% said they would tell staff if bullying was seen. “We can’t ignore it,” Pat St. Clair, principal, said. “It never gets better if the kids ignore it.”

St. Clair said younger kids have cell phones, he has seen a rise in kids texting not very nice things to each other. Bullying has been seen 56.5% on the playground/at recess, almost 47% on the bus and almost 30% at lunch. Making all areas of the school safer will be looked at, he noted.

Results from the middle and high schools showed almost 60% felt bullying was somewhat of a problem with the majority of students reporting they had not been bullied at school, on the bus or social media. Cell phones are shut off and in lockers at the middle school, Kris Targett, middle school principal, noted. He said bullying, like at the primary and elementary schools is seen in unsupervised areas, it starts on cell phones and is brought into the schools.

One woman said she didn’t believe kids needed cell phones.

TJ Plourde, principal at the high school reviewed results from parents and community members. Less than 3% did not know what bullying was, 72% of their children had seen others being bullied at school, 42% felt schools had not taken appropriate measures regarding bullying and almost 48% had anxiety about their child’s safety related to bullying when sending their students to school.

More than 26% of respondents said a child had stayed home at least once during the last 12 months over fear of being bullied at school. “This concerns me, kills me,” Plourde stated. “Any amount is too much.”

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Of staff responses, 78% felt bullying was somewhat of a problem, only 36% felt the bullying policy was adequate and almost 53% were not sure if administrators were following that policy.

Attendees then split into smaller groups to share what concerns brought them to the meeting. Each group then discussed key points mentioned. The results are listed below:

• Want better communication with staff.

• Want consistency in how things are handled in the building and throughout the district.

• Child’s actual interpretation of what actually happens.

• Misinformation from what bullying is and how to address issues.

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• Students not reporting or cooperating with the investigation.

• Wanted to hear other’s concerns.

• Wanted to be part of the solution.

• Making sure the solution is consistent through-out the district.

• Everyone should know – transparency, more transparency.

• Wanted to see what was going on, be part of the process.

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• Part of the behavior committee.

• Wanted to see parent participation.

• That the public’s [including parents & kids] general feeling that staff does nothing or not enough.

• Teaching students to be an upstander, teaching students and building tools for them.

• Bullying is an overused term.

• Student/staff/parents do not understand definition of bullying.

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• Kids getting picked on is very common, the kids getting picked on don’t know if it is a joke or not.

• Recognizing physical harm is easier than recognizing emotional harm.

• Staff giving feedback to kids/families would be helpful, so that people have awareness of follow-through and action being taken.

• Challenge in identifying perpetrators when there is a group of kids targeting one student – the group can shift and make identification difficult.

• How to think differently about consequences – more along the lines of the football team cleaning instead of suspension. Service work rather than creating more idle time. It would be an education teaching point.

• More communication.

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• Best friend – six times to TJ, no action.

• Kindergarten bullying on the bus, mean kids, 15 minute ride.

• Bitch name calling – high school.

• Mean girls – I’m going to jump so and so.

• No action from staff when complaints are made.

• Everyone needs to know people’s situation – this is where the disconnect happens.

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• 2020 forward things are not moving fast enough toward change.

• Need more change.

• Misunderstanding youth.

• Does not come across that adults care about them.

• Tired of having to get lawyers/LE involved because students don’t feel safe.

• Disconnect from everyone.

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• SRO – other schools than high school.

• Multiple administrators – lack of communication.

• Everyone has to be transparent with parents.

• Community does not feel safe or have faith in system.

• Everyone needs to feel supported.

• Empower our children starting at a very young age.

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• Disconnect with people who aren’t from here.

• Poverty.

Staff have signed up to work on student behavior and bullying this summer, Albert said. A follow up meeting will be held mid to late August, he noted. He suggested speaking with legislators about the issue as students in younger grades can’t be suspended.

Recess can’t be taken away, an easy consequence for younger students, Glynn said.

“Primary and elementary school is the age to be teaching kids these things,” Albert stated. Bullying gets worse as they get older, he added.

“Consistency is super important,” Roger Moulton, a board of director from Livermore Falls noted. “At the middle school athletes aren’t punished the same way as a non-athlete is.”

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