Bethel ASB hosts community forum on bullying

by K.J. Lincoln

The Bethel Advisory School Board hosted a community forum on bullying and how it is being addressed. Members of the Bethel ASB, teachers and school support staff, students, and parents filled up the Bethel Regional High School’s new cafeteria where the forum was being held.

The event included a presentation on what bullying is and isn’t, a student’s reflections on bullying, the results of a Bethel student survey on bullying, and featured several guest speakers including Site Administrators from local Bethel schools.

According to the presentation, there are different types of bullying including cyber, sexual, and prejudicial. There is also dating bullying. If the behavior stops a person from going to school, it is considered bullying.

70% of students reported seeing bullying happen, which was stated at the forum.

A video entitled “Learning About Bullying” was shown which gave the following insights about what bullying is:

To block bullying at our schools, we need to learn to recognize and prevent it. Bullying is one-sided, it only goes one way. Teasing back and forth is not bullying. Two-sided arguments are not bullying. Bullying is intentional, that means it is on purpose. Accidentally hurting someone is not bullying. Bullying is repeated, that means they will do it over and over again.

Bullying is hurtful and can make you or someone else very sad. Bullying can be physical. A bully might use his body or hands to hurt someone. Bullying can be verbal. The bully might use mean words, ridicule, or spread rumors about someone.

Bullying can also happen when someone is left out or excluded on purpose. Or when someone tries to damage friendships. When a bully or bullies use friendships to hurt someone, that is called relationship bullying.

Who is a bully? It can be a boy or a girl or even a group of kids. Some kids watch other kids get bullied or even laugh when someone is bullied.

The video encourages students to take the “Bully Blocker Pledge” where they agree to not bully other students, to help students who are bullied by speaking out and getting adult help, and to include students who are left out.

A survey was conducted among Bethel’s 7th to 12th graders on bullying. 152 students responded to the survey with 75% of the respondents being from Bethel Regional High School. The results were shared during the forum.

One student wrote that they wanted to stop speaking Yup’ik and to even stop eating the things that they liked that they were being bullied about. Another said that it made them not want to go to school.

Most all of the responses were like the above two, but one person wrote that when they were bullied that it made them stronger and a self-loved person.

In the survey, students were asked where they get their help from. Friends, parents, guardians were the responses.

Those in attendance were given a chance to speak about what their reactions were to the forum, or to speak what was on their mind about this sensitive issue.

“Kids sometimes don’t report the bullying,” said one parent. “That’s where they need their friends to be there and report the bullying.”

Another parent, referencing the data of kids who responded that they felt like they could not get help, said “34% said they felt they could not get help. They don’t feel like going to the administration, they’ll go to their friends. We need to help them go to a teacher. We need to get our kids to stand up and say ‘no’. 70% witness – how many kids call it out? We need to find a way to change the culture in that decision making process.”

Bullies have a background too, said one parent. “We have to teach our kids a better way. Make friends with the bully,” he said.

Speaking by way of letter, a parent stated that when their child was being bullied that they went to the bully’s parents, with respect, to talk about it.

The forum ended with a breakout session with those in attendance getting into groups based on their children’s school ages to gather together to brainstorm solutions to help stop bullying in our schools. A designated scribe for each group took down the notes.

The Bully Blocker video shown at the forum can be viewed on youtube under Learning About Bullying.