The Cambridge-Isanti School District recently teamed up with Isanti County Family Services to unite against bullying.
They used October, as National Bullying Prevention Month, to draw attention to prevention.
National Bullying Prevention Month is a campaign founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness. Specifically, Oct. 9 was Unity Day, set to unite people against bullying.
On this day, the district and Family Services set up a table in the Cambridge-Isanti High School cafeteria to inform students about bullying and bullying prevention.
Deb Natzel, a children’s mental health worker with Isanti County Family Services, said bullying is an issue in all schools.
“I have clients who experience bullying at the schools and there’s always so much you don’t see under the surface,” Natzel said. “Kids get bullied if they don’t look a certain way or act in a certain way or don’t want to be friends with someone. It’s across all age groups, and I see kids with both the mental symptoms and physical symptoms.”
Natzel said bullying takes place between interactions in the hallways and with lockers. She also said the girls tend to use social media websites. She said she also hears issues with boys, but they usually don’t want to talk about it.
Natzel said she received a positive reaction from students during Unity Day. Students were encouraged to read the information on the display board at the information table and sign up for a chance to win prizes.
“We wanted to have this display to inform the students about standing up for each other, going out of their way to be nice to someone and being nice to themselves,” Natzel said. “Kids are afraid they may get picked on for telling someone they are being bullied or they think, ‘If I didn’t look like this, I wouldn’t be getting picked on.’ Kids are always trying hard to fit in and trying hard to be themselves.”
Natzel said a key factor is teaching kids from a young age that bullying is wrong.
“We need to focus on this with the younger ages and have them focus on being kind to their other students and their neighbors,” Natzel said. “Pretty much I hear about things happening during the unstructured time of passing in the hallways, lunch time and after school.”
Natzel said some of the clients she sees have mental health issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression or sometimes they harm themselves.
“Our role at Family Services is to coordinate services for them and guide parents if they are unsure of what steps to take,” Natzel said. “We help them find the resources they need to get their children back home with them or back in school. Our community has good coordination between the schools, Isanti County Probation and Family Services.”
Cambridge Police Officer Jesse Peck, who has served as a school resource officer at the high school the past four years, said the first couple of years he heard about 30 to 40 fights a year. This past year, there were only five or six.
“I’ve seen the number of fights, assaults and disorderly conducts drop significantly the past couple of years at the high school,” Peck said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve really focused on sending the message that if you have a fight or commit an assault, you can be charged with a crime. I think that has helped deter the number of cases we have, and we also tell these students if you are charged with a crime, you can be put on probation.”
Peck said he encourages students to talk through their issues.
“We tell these students they need to be law-abiding, and that you can’t solve problems through violence,” Peck said. “I have someone mediate with me when meeting with students if that’s needed. I explain to students that if they have a problem with each other, they need to work it out. They don’t have to become best friends, but they need to learn to be respectful to each other.”
Peck said he continues to give presentations on bullying prevention.
“So far this school year, the kids are really doing well and this has been a great start to the year,” Peck said. “We have had only one fight so far this year. My message is we can’t fix a problem if we don’t know about it. We encourage students to talk about things, and I’m all about working on different options with these students.”
Three Steps to Take If Your Child is Being Targeted by Bullying at School
It is important that parents approach this situation in a calm manner and that parents keep records of facts in the situation. It is helpful if parents and school staff work together to resolve the issue. Parents can use the following steps to resolve the issue.
I. Work with your child
Thank your child for telling you. Tell your child that the bullying is not his or her fault. Talk with your child about the specifics of the situation and ask:
• Who is doing the bullying?
• What happened? Was it verbal bullying? Physical bullying? Cyberbullying? (Meet directly with the principal if this is the case.)
• What days and times were you bullied?
• Where did the bullying take place?
Also find out how your child responded to the bullying and if other children or adults might have observed the bullying. Does your child know the names of these people?
Keep a written record of this information.
Practice possible ways for your child to respond to bullying. PACER offers a “Student Action Plan” that walks through potential action steps.
Tell a school staff member (teacher, principal, other staff).
Go to the next step if needed.
II. Work with the school
Meet with your child’s teacher to:
• Discuss what is happening to your child using information from the first step.
• Ask what can be done so your child feels safe at school.
Keep a written record of what happened at this meeting, including names and dates.
Make an appointment to meet with the principal to discuss the bullying situation and to:
• Share information from the first step.
• Mention your work with your child regarding the situation.
Share the outcome of your meeting with the teacher and discuss how the situation is impacting your child, such as:
• If he or she does not want to come to school.
• If he or she is fearful of being hurt.
• If you’ve heard complaints of stomach aches, headaches, etc.
• If other new behavior has surfaced as a result of bullying.
Ask if the school has a written policy on bullying and harassment. If so, ask for a written copy.
Ask what the school can do to keep your child safe at school, on the bus, etc.
Go to the third step if needed.
III. Work with district administration
Write a letter or send an email to the district superintendent requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. Include the name of the child, age, grade, school, your address and phone number, background information of the bullying situation and how you have tried to resolve it.
This letter should be as brief and factual as possible. Include the times you are available for this meeting. Send copies of this letter to the principal, special education director if the child is receiving special education and chair of the school board. Keep a copy for yourself.
Prepare for this meeting by organizing the information you have kept and the questions you want to ask. Remember to ask what can be done to keep your child safe in school so he or she can learn.
Decide if you want to take someone with you. Clarify their role (e.g., take notes, provide support, contribute information about your child). Keep a written record of this meeting, including who was present, what was discussed and any decisions that were made.
If, after taking these three steps, the bullying issue has not been resolved, you may wish to contact a parent center or advocacy organization for assistance.