Yukon schools fight back against bullying

Yukon Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth, center, is joined by Lance Haggard and Diana Lebsack, the executive directors of education, to discuss the issue of bullying in the Yukon School District. Photo / Terry Groover

Bullying will not be tolerated in the Yukon School District, and officials say they have steps in place to ensure that incidents like those that occurred last week shouldn’t happen.
Over the past two weeks, at least four incidents have led to the arrests of three students and a video of a bullying incident that went viral.
Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth, along with the district’s two new executive directors of education, say there are steps in place to keep these types of incidents from occurring.
Each year, the district’s teachers go through mandatory training that focuses on spotting problems before they become serious.
And officials say that all of the students involved in the widely reported incidents of the past two weeks were on the district’s radar.
There are programs, such as Helping Hands and Watchdog Dads, that put parents into the classrooms to help prevent problems, especially at the elementary level.
However, once students move to the middle school, parents often stop participating at the same level they had when the students were at the elementary school.
That is when adult interaction is needed even more, said Diana Lebsack, the district’s executive director of secondary education.
Lebsack said this is the time the students need the support because of peer pressure and the availability of technology.
Last week, three students were arrest after threats were made involving violence at school.
In addition, the previous week, videos of a student being assaulted was posted on a social media site and went viral.
That video prompted numerous concerns.
Simeroth discouraged people from posting such videos, but rather to contact the school district so the matter can be handled internally.
“I would never condone or support putting out student videos on any platform. It is a violation of students’ privacy. Never, ever, ever is that a good idea,” the superintendent said. “It is a good idea to send it to someone at the school to let school officials know. Absolutely.”
And Lebsack said not all of the information that has been posted about that video is accurate. However, the district can’t correct the inaccuracies because of federal privacy laws.
“Because you have to, as a school, remain silent, that perpetuates in their mind that all of these things are true, which is definitely not the case in this situation,” she said.
Simeroth agreed.
“We can’t tell you, we just can’t tell you. It is illegal. We can tell you it has been handled,” he said, although pointing out that how it was handled must remain private.
The district does offer several ways to deal with bullying issues.
Among them is teaching students how to report bullying and how to get help, said Lance Haggard, who the executive director of elementary education.
He said the district provides a presentation that is geared toward elementary students with lessons about bullying.
Haggard said the presentation is done in a theatrical way as to make the students feel more comfortable.
And for those accused of bullying, the goal is to change the behavior.
“Instead of kicking kids out of school, we’re finding ways to make amends and restore their behavior before it escalates out of control.
“We’ve got so many great things in place. Not everyone know all the things that are being done behind the scene. This is a constant work in progress. We constantly looking for new ways to correct student behavior,” Lebsack said.
Remediation is better than the old alternative, which is an expulsion.
“We don’t want anyone, because of a choice they have made, to negatively affect their ability to get an education and have the opportunity to be successful,” she said.
“That is not the way to solve it (the bullying). … (Expulsion) It’s not always the right thing to do for the kids if you can avoid it at all,” Simeroth said. “Kids are going to learn something. We’d rather they learn something we are presenting to them with our continuing education programs than to say ‘Go hit the streets because we are done with you.’ That is not our first option anymore.”
Lebsack said the goal is to be there for the students … all of them.
“We’re here for all kids, even when they make a poor decision. It is still our responsibility to take care of that kid,” she said.
Plus, as Haggard pointed out, having students on the streets unsupervised is not a good idea.
To help solve the problems before they become serious issues, Haggard said the district has two behavioral specialists on staff — one each at the elementary and secondary level.
They work with teachers and administrators to find solutions.
“We’re trying to get ahead of this and improve behavior through all grade levels,” he said.
The recent incidents, Simertoh said, is an anomaly and represents less than 1% of the student body.
“Are we saying there are never going to be any problems? No. Are we doing everything we can to put preventive measure in place? Every site has a school guidance plan in place that must address the social-emotional learning of all students and prevention measures,” Lebsack said.

Leave a Comment