Monday, May 21, 2012

New Haven schools, former board member respond to bullying

By Angela Carter, Community Engagement Editor
Facebook: Angi Carter, Community Media Lab

Let me first say what an honor it was to be invited to a special screening of the "Bully" documentary and a very moving discussion afterwards, facilitated by Brian K. Perkins, Ph.D., director of the Urban Education Leadership Program at Columbia University's Teachers College Department of Organization and Leadership.

About 50 students, parents, teachers and administrators from several New Haven public schools participated in the event, held at Criterion Cinemas in New Haven, as well as Tom Ficklin, owner of The Ficklin Media Group, LLC and a blogger with the Register's Community Media Lab.

The film chronicles how the actions of bullies affected Tyler, a boy who hung himself at age 17; Alex, who is called "fish face" by his siblings and schoolmates; and Ja'Meya, a girl who fights back against bullies by secretly taking her mother's gun with her to school one day.

Dr. Perkins and several participants offer their perspective in the video below on the bullying epidemic, their impressions of the film and how they hope society will respond:


New Haven's school district has a  Safe School Climate Plan and assigns a coordinator in each school to handle bullying complaints. The district's bullying policy states, in part:

"The New Haven Public Schools requires students, staff and/or parents to report all cases of bullying immediately, to the school’s administrator, administrator’s designee, or director.
Discrimination and retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying are prohibited. Teachers and other school staff who witness or receive reports of bullying are required to notify the appropriate administrator immediately. The notification must be made in writing."

Among the high school students at the screening were Sarah Farquharson, Maeve Cunningham and Arijan Ager, who all are members of the group ThinKING. The school-based organization works in partnership with the Connecticut Center for Non-violence to teach youths how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Farquharson said the group applies the methodologies of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"To watch with my students, what could be better," said Suzannah Holsenbech, an instructor for ThinKING.

If a child in your family is subjected to bullying, Connecticut law requires that a formal complaint be filed with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) within 180 days of the incident being reported.

Brian K. Perkins, Ph.D.

 Dr. Perkins is the former chairman and a professor of Education Law and Policy at Southern Connecticut State University and former member of the research faculty at Yale University School of Medicine.

He is the author of several published articles and book chapters and serves as the principal investigator and author of Where We Learn (2006), Where We Teach (2007) and What We Think (2008). His forthcoming manuscript, "Improving School Climate from the Inside Out" is under review and is scheduled for release early next year. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Grambling State University, a master's in public health from Yale School of Medicine and a doctorate in education from Columbia University's Teachers College.

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