School Department takes proactive approach to bullying
By Chris Mazachrism@thereminder.com
WILBRAHAM In an effort to prevent incidents before they happen, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) will be conducting a series of conversations with middle and high school students regarding bullying, harassment and sexual harassment during the month of October.
Parents and guardians of students at Thornton Burgess and Wilbraham middle schools, as well as Minnechaug Regional High School, were made aware of the upcoming discussions in a letter sent home in September signed by Superintendent M. Martin O'Shea, Hampden Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth and Wilbraham Police Chief Roger Tucker.
"The serious problems associated with criminal and discriminatory harassment among young people have drawn national attention, and we know that these issues can affect not only our educational environment but the climate of our communities," the letter read.
The letter went on to state that administrators, teachers, counselors and school resource officers would conduct the discussion sessions during advisory times throughout the school day.
Tucker confirmed to Reminder Publications
that his department's two resource officers, Daniel Menard and Jeffrey Rudinski, would have an active role in the discussions.
"They will be working with small groups of students addressing several topics regarding bullying and harassment," he said.
Sgt. William Joy, the Hampden Police Department's school resources officer, said he would participate in the programs at Thornton Burgess Middle School with the intention of educating students, not frightening them.
"This isn't a scare tactic. The police involvement in this program is to simply reinforce what the school leadership and counselors are teaching students about this," he said. "A lot of times kids think that the rules and laws don't apply to them because they are minors and this is to let them know that there are, in fact, consequences to this kind of behavior."
Subjects that will be covered in the discussions, according to the letter, include defining exactly what bullying and harassment are, how victims and bystanders should go about reporting issues, and what can be done to prevent these behaviors at school and in other settings, including online communications.
"Explaining to kids exactly what bullying is takes away excuses for them," Joy said. "As police, saying 'I didn't know,' or 'I was just fooling around' are not excuses that we are going to accept. We will be teaching these kids that their actions speak for themselves and there is no excuse for bullying."
Tucker added that part of the program would deal specifically with legal ramifications associated with bullying and harassment.
"My understanding is they will be taking students through the entire process of a harassment order, which is similar to a restraining order, and they will explain the penalties at the same time they are presenting the topic of bullying," he said. A message left for O'Shea requesting comment was not returned as of press time.