Mon Valley Schools Bury Heads in Sand Over Bullying

From Monday’s Valley Independent, I learned that most of the high schools in the mid-Mon Valley believe they are being proactive on cyber-bullying. According to Charleroi Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko.

“I think technology is a great thing, but like everything, it has to be controlled,” he said. “We’ve (addressed) bullying and cyber safety at the PTA meetings. We’ve also had groups where they talk about the bullying. I think we’re very proactive.”

The rest of the superintendents and principals shrug off the problem as not overly prevalent in their wonderful little school districts (Monessen and Ringgold) and emphasize how they interact with the parents to address specific circumstances. Monessen Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Chelen prefaces all of her sentences with “if” which implies that of course the wonderful Monessen school district is probably not sullied by bullying.

Ferko has the utmost faith in parents:“Ninety-five to 98 percent of the time, it’s handled by the parents and they’re very supportive.”

Let’s take a quick trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut where more than 14 high school students took part in a brutal assault on a gay high schooler. (He’s recovering but terrified to go back to school, of course). But note this little tidbit…

In a police report obtained by The Post, officer Dwayne Harrison wrote that rumors about students’ sexuality have provoked ongoing tension at Central.

So this wasn’t just a random mob event. The tension … ahem, bullying … had been there. In the school. Among the students. What we don’t know yet is how the school was handling the situation.

I want to know who sold the sand in which the Mon Valley birds have buried their heads.  I mean do they actually spend time in school?  Have they met the parents?  98 percent of the time the parents handle bullyiing?  That’s a ridiculous assertion. If 98 percent of the parents in any disciplinary situation handled the situation and were “very supportive” school life would look very different.  Especially for those of us who were on the bottom of the food chain.

I remember high school very well (West Mifflin Area). I survived some what unscathed because I was brainy and funny, but I have some wounds from ugly confrontations and abuse. It was awful for some of my friends, including those who were gay. I remember lists like the one in Mt. Lebanon, painful scenes in the locker room, the constant teasing and ridicule, being physically chased and assaulted, and the very subtle underlying sexual threat. It was not an experience I would willingly repeat. And I got off easy.

My partner went to a rural school and her stories are just as awful, if not worse because of the greater isolation the rural kids experienced.

Reading this piece of drivel from the Valley Independent makes me choke of my coffee. I have a cousin planning to move her kids out to a “country school” because she buys into this myth that somehow its safer than the suburbs (or, god forbid, the city). I know she’s acting in good faith, but these principals are actively contributing to her delusion when they make these statements.

Too bad the reporter didn’t challenge the 98% fact and ask for some evidence. Or even ask if they have documentation on bullying incidents. Or, more importantly, ask what type of anti-bullying curriculum materials they are using. Passing around some handouts at the PTA meeting isn’t very effective. I’m guessing that the parents of most bullies don’t join the the PTA.  I could be wrong.

Take it from the homos, Mon Valley. You should really rethink this whole blissful ignorance issue. It is great that you work with the police and the parents to address specific incidents of bullying. And its great that you try to educate the parents about the dangers of cyber-bullying. But what you need to do is get beyond the mentality that bullying is part of the routine high school experience, roll up your sleeves and get in there with some tools to educate your kids. You might want to contact my all time favorite resource GLSEN Pittsburgh.

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