Archive for Tuesday, February 27, 2007

District takes tough stand on bullying

February 27, 2007


Lawrence students pay the price for snow-filled days off of school

After a lengthy and heated discussion, school board members decide tonight it's only going to cost them a minute here and there. Enlarge video

Sue Morgan, Lawrence's school board president, discusses local efforts to stop bullying in schools.


A clear message came out of Lawrence's school board meeting Monday night considering bullying: It won't be tolerated.

And the board was assured that policies and practices are in place to prevent a situation experienced by a Tonganoxie student, Dylan Theno, who suffered through several years of bullying that eventually ended with a $440,000 settlement against that school district.

"The point I'm trying to make to you people is that kids will do whatever they are allowed to do," Alan Theno told the Lawrence board. "My wife and I tried from Dylan's seventh grade through his junior year in high school to get the bullying to stop."

Theno said no amount of money could replace his son's years in school or his loss of self-esteem. "Watching our son fall apart was the worst thing we ever experienced," he said.

Theno said as the board rewrites its policies, it needs to make administrators responsible.

"Policies are no good if administrators ignore them," he said.

Superintendent Randy Weseman told the board that the policies and practices in place in Lawrence were designed to extinguish bullying at its early stages and that Theno's experience in Tonganoxie was "intolerable."

"No parent should have to endure what this parent had to endure," said Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent.

Verbal abuse

Theno said the bullying of his son started in February 2000 when a boy in his son's seventh-grade class announced loudly in the school cafeteria that he had seen Dylan Theno masturbating in a boy's restroom.

"It wasn't true, but he said it and it was heard by a large group of boys," Theno said. "My son's name went from Dylan to 'jerkoff,' 'jack-off boy,' 'masturbator,' 'fag,' 'queer,' 'flamer' and many other filthy names. My son complained about it to the principal, but the principal forgot about it."

Dylan Theno is not a homosexual.

The names became worse as the boys found they wouldn't be punished, Alan Theno said. He said he and his wife went to the school 40 times to complain.

In the lawsuit, which was filed in May 2004, Dylan Theno alleged he was called the names until he quit school as a junior. The suit also said the harassment denied him access to an education.

A U.S. District Court jury awarded Theno a $250,000 judgment in August 2005 and the district was ordered by the judge in the case to pay nearly $270,000 in court costs. That award was under appeal when the $440,000 settlement was reached.

Following Alan Theno's statement Monday night, the board heard a report from three administrators on the Lawrence school district's efforts to curtail bullying in its schools.

Sandee Crowther, executive director for planning and program improvement; Chris Squier, director of Safe Schools and Healthy Students; and Karen Vespestad, director of grants, board services and strategic planning, told the board that two approaches were under way.

One is a districtwide effort at staff training and efforts to include language in board policy to bullying, "cyber bullying" and hazing.

The other approach is by working with mental health professionals to create classroom lessons dealing with bullying and sexual harassment for every grade level.

As part of that effort, three elementary schools are going through the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Langston Hughes, Prairie Park and Woodlawn. Sunflower School will go through the program in April.

Squires said the first two schools have shown a 50 percent reduction in bullying.

Snow day makeup

In other major action the board approved on a 5-1 voice vote, with Leonard Ortiz voting no, a plan to make up the snow day taken Feb. 13 by adding a few minutes to each school day. Ortiz said he didn't like the message the board was sending by not having the time put into one block.

The board was told each building needs to have at least 1,116 hours to meet the state requirement. The elementary schools will make up the time by adding two minutes to each day, from March 1 to May 24.

Free State High School will add four minutes its day beginning March 5. Lawrence High School and the junior highs have enough minutes built into their regular schedules and won't have to make any adjustments.


Nikki May 11 years, 3 months ago

"Dylan Theno is not a homosexual." Putting this sentence into the story makes it seem like if he was, that it would be ok to taunt and tease. It is NOT.

Linda Kucza 11 years, 3 months ago

I concur, punkrockmom. I am glad to hear our district will continue efforts to lower the amount of bullying our kids experience. I know we can help our kids learn to treat each other respectfully. That can only lead to better, more responsible and productive adults. Thanks to the school board, Weseman, Passman, Crowther, and all who work to keep our kids safe.

bolshavik_vw 11 years, 3 months ago

About time someone took the first step to end this problem, that has been growing instead of decreasing in size. I along with several good friends had to live through this daily tormit, daily. And it messes a person up so bad that they are not able to function well as an adult. Low self esteem,poor decision making etc. So yes this is a good thing. Bullying is not only harmful, it is abuse. And if parents,teachers etc, tell you they do it because they like you. That is a BIG FAT LIE!!!! Get help and stop the problem! LAWRENCE SCHOOLS ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

lol. i took a "tough stand" on bullying when i was in jr. high. there was a girl who constantly harrased me and some of my friends for months. the school office knew darn well what was going on but they did nothing to stop it. one day this gal tripped me in the hall way and i decided i'd had enough. i knocked the crap right out of her. of course i was the one who ended up getting suspended for 3 days. but she left me alone after that.

hottruckinmama 11 years, 3 months ago

i'm glad that dylan got a settlement from this. of course it won't get back all of his school years. maybe if it starts to hit these school districts in the pocket book they will try a little harder to stop this kind of nonsense. its too bad that the parents of the kids that did the bullying didn't have to fork out some cash as well.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 3 months ago

You have to catch bullies in the act, or just at all to do anything about it then the teachers and admin. have to follow thru on it for this to work. It is all well and good to talk about the problem but the follow thru is the most important thing.

justthefacts 11 years, 3 months ago

I taught my children to NEVER start a fight, but to NEVER put up with being mistreated, by anyone. But that is not always a system guaranteed to keep your child out of trouble with school leaders.

Here's a true story about one young lady's experience with Lawrence's policy on bullying.... Not my kid, but a friends. She is in college now, but was in a highschool a few years back (won't say which one) and found out the hard way that bullies are allowed to operate without punishment as long as their parents etc. are well connected.

The young lady in question is quiet, shy and a good student . She started dating a young man, whose ex-girl friend was not happy about it. The verbal abuse and rumor spreading was vicious. When that didn't work to make her stop dating the young man in question, the popular girl let everyone know what she was going to do next (even the school counselors were aware of the threats, but did nothing). She waited in the parking lot - as promised - and physcially attacked her rival. The rival did not defend herself (thinking she'd be in trouble for landing any blows) but lay in a ball on the ground while blows rained down. She got cut up bad enough to need stitches.

After the beating ended, she called her parents who took her straight to the hospital. Bad move, apparently.

She was suspended because she had (a) not gone to school administrator's first and (b) had verbally responded to her abuser with words that weren't nice.

Moral of the story; imo you need to teach your children to defend themselves, because even if they do everything to stay out of a fight, the school system is not going to back up or protect the intended or actual victims.

If the kids are going to get hurt and suspended, either way, at least you can keep them from needing medical attention!

Confrontation 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm confused. Doesn't another article today in the LJWorld claim that high self-esteem is bad. So, does that mean the victim is better off than the bully? By ending bullying, wouldn't we be raising self-esteem? Oh, too many options!

imastinker 11 years, 3 months ago

The school districts need to pay attention. As a high schooler, I had to fight back to defend myself. A few fights in the ninth grade was all it took.

I should never have had to do that - the teachers sat back and watched. In my case, however, I beat up the bully, so maybe they enjoyed that.

I will teach my kids to defend themselves, but only when necessary.

mjensen 11 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I would say that this bullying is just way out of hand, even in High School where you would think that your young adolecent teenager could defend themselves with ignoring the situation. Just to let all parents know that my 16yr old daughter was involved in an altercation between her and another girl attending Free State High. Not to mention this was only her second week of school after moving to the Lawrence area over Christmas break. When I went to the school to pick my daughter up for her 5 day suspension, due to "Zero Tolerance" policy, that I support in every way. I was pulled in to the officer of the schools office only to watch a horrific event played by a survaliance camera, (which there are many placed throughout the school) in action clearly shows that as my daughter walks out of the library with the librarian to avoid a confitation with the other student in the library, the other student comes running from behind my daughter and librarian and attacks my daughter. I had to walk out of the office, not able to watch the ending of this horrific event. As the other student was ordered to JDC, my daughter was able to go back to school the following week with notice that she would have a charge of disordely conduct. That we have not seen any notification of yet. So to think if these camera's were not available in or throughout the school, kinda makes me worry what could have happened. So please make your children aware of the bullying that can go on at school.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 11 years, 3 months ago

And I say, let's all start sewing our MULTIMILLION DOLLAR SCHOOL system for not protecting our children.

Sewing is not the answer. Yes, perhaps we can sew some clothing or hats for the needy students, but needlework does not address the issue of bullying.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 3 months ago

I am happy the school district is finally doing something about bullying after getting nothing but BS from them when my older child and my nice were in. My son was bullyied at Central and Jan Gentry just didn't want to be bothered with it - Yeah, Jan, you can masticate on my gluteous maximus - so I moved out of Cental's district.

Then at West, my niece was being bullied not only at school, but these ghetto plauged, thugged out [rhymes with witches] were calling my house threatening her and even following her home by taking school buses that they weren't even assigned to!!! For the longest West too did nothing, so they can also bite me! I wondered out loud to the principal, might have been the assitant, that "Gee, since the Supreme Court has ruled that schools can be liable for sexual harrassment that they don't even know about, I believe that sets a precedent for other types of harrassment, I would imagine especially harrassment they have been notified of." Looks like the Theno's have prooven me right.

Wouldn't you know, there was a monitor put on her bus and the school decided it would be a good idea to intervene. Just for good measure I tought her some handy tricks should she need to fight dirty with an unexpected attacker.

Shardwurm 11 years, 3 months ago

The sad part is that the incentive to do this is based on a successful lawsuit, not that it shouldn't be tolerated.

Confrontation 11 years, 3 months ago

Put the parents of these bullies into a jail cell with their brats. These kids are learning it from them.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 3 months ago

My daughter, in the second grade for heaven's sake, was bullied unmercifully by another girl. I complained to the teacher. Who told me, "Oh, 'D' is such a sweet little girl, I find it hard to believe she'd do that!" Which basically was calling my daughter a liar. The principal said pretty much the same thing, but said he'd look into it. Which he never did.

My child was coming home with BRUISES caused by this other girl. It was happening on the playground, during recess and after lunch. Her parents were well-to-do people, and I suspect this is the real reason the school didn't seem concerned, or wanted to believe the other child more.

And of course, children can seem quite innocent and angelic when they want to be.

I got tired of trying to talk to the teacher. I got tired of trying to reason with the principal. I'd had enough. I marched into the principal's office, without an appointment. The secretary announced to me that he was busy, and I told her that he would be in a minute, busy dealing with ME.

I went into his office anyway, announced to him that my daughter was coming home with bruises all over her, that I had pictures, and that if they really thought this other child wasn't doing anything, then my only other option was to assume that either the teacher or some other adult at the school was battering my child. I told him I expected it to STOP, and I expected it to stop NOW, or he could talk to me in court.

The problem went away the very next day. The other girl was suddenly monitored every moment she was on the playground, and they found that not only was she bullying and physically assaulting my daughter, but other children as well.

She never touched my daughter again.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 3 months ago

Yes, Shard, it is sad and sickening. When the school shootings started happening they, in their infinite wisdom, blamed the weapons and started 0 tolerance there. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is treating the symptom and not the cause.

Then Columbine happened and they finally, FINALLY, started to address what many of us knew for some time: The one thing all these kid shooters - kids who unlike most bullied chilren who take their own life take that of their oppressors and others along with them - had in common was they were all mercilessly bullied.

No, the lost lives are not enough. It's not about keeping kids safe. It's not about keeping kids well and whole. It's all about the almighty dollar and the bottom line. And that is sickening.

I am happy I discovered the right button to push to get some action - and I should not have had to do that!! - and crazyks figured it out too. Good on ya, Crazy!!

BlackVelvet 11 years, 3 months ago

If more parents were to "grow a pair" and lstand behind their kids, I'll bet there would be less of this bullying going on. Good for you, crazyks! More parents need to stand up.

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