District 41 Seeks Task Force to Combat Bullying in Schools
Superintendent Dr. Anne Riebock is looking for members of the community to join a task force dedicated to stopping bullying in District 41.
Earlier this week, District 41 Superintendent Dr. Anne Riebock sent out an e-blast to subscribers of the district's newsletter. In the email, Riebock announced that District 41 would be putting together a task force against bullying, and that they were looking for volunteers from the community to participate.
The bullying task force's first meeting is set for Sep. 30 and is the result of the district wanting to devote more attention to the problem of bullying in the schools. Earlier this spring, the Parent Teacher Advisory Committee, which looks into discipline issues in the district, discussed the issue and recommended a special committee be created to find the best ways to deal with the problem.
"It wasn't a single incident," Riebock said. "Really it was a combination of many things."
The fact that the topic is a national issue, as well as requirements from the state's Office of Civil Rights to report incidents of bullying in the schools played a part, Riebock said. But the superintendent also added that in the last year, she has seen the number of calls to her office from parents complaining of bullying increase.
"We have found some interesting partnerships where we didn't necessarily know they existed," Riebock said of the response she's received from people wanting to participate. "More teachers are requesting to participate than we have room for."
Teachers, social workers, parents and community members have all been asked to lend a hand. District 41's schools are currently recommending and enlisting teachers and social workers, but the task force will leave 8-10 seats open for community members to fill.
One of the important first steps the task force will take is developing a definition of bullying in the district.
"We do have a definition, but it's a policy definition, "Riebock said. "It's really guided by the law and so I think what we want to do further than that is define it in kid terms, so that students know what bullying is."
Dr. Darlene Ruscitti, regional superintendent of schools for DuPage County said that her task force encountered the same problem when they began looking into the issue.
"We really need to take a good, hard look at this, because all of the research shows that it is preventable," Ruscitti said. "One of the first things we asked ourselves was, 'what does bullying mean?'
Ruscitti's countywide task force was formed earlier this year and held it's first meeting six months ago. The task force is supposed to come to a conclusion on Nov. 1. Ruscitti's hope is that he task force will be able to supply the school districts in DuPage County with the research and good practices that they are developing, to help those districts with their own decisions. However, according to Ruscitti, it cant stop there, and that these situations in the schools need to be constantly monitored.
"All our research says even when you think you're doing everything right, everything by the book, it comes back. This isn't something the schools can just fix. The system needs to be looked at," Ruscitti said.
In her email call for volunteers, Riebock said that due to high levels of interest in the program, a lottery system might have to be put into place to decide who will be able to join. Still, Riebock said she doesn't want to turn anyone away. The district is currently looking into ways to tap into that interest beyond the task force, but nothing has been officially set yet.
The ultimate goal of both task force's is to come to a conclusion about what are the best practices that schools can try to stop the problem. Both superintendents said that the goals were to create a definition of what bullying is, how to best discipline it and the best ways to solve the problems by addressing both the needs of the victim and the bully—a goal that they say is nothing sort of changing the culture of the school system.
"The culture we want to create for our students is safe, caring and nurturing, so that every student can grow and learn to the maximum potential," Riebock said.
For more information about becoming a part of District 41's bullying task force, contact Maureen Stecker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those selected for the task force will be notified by Sep. 20.