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Parents invited to anti-bullying seminar Jan.19

Date: 12/20/2010

Dec. 20, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- With the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Dec. 31 deadline for school districts to submit their Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plans approaching, do you know exactly what constitutes bullying or how to spot it?

On Jan. 19, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) is sponsoring "Social Success: Preventing Bullying and Cyber-bullying. What parents should know," a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Englander, a respected authority on the subject of bullying.

A psychologist and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University, Englander has been active throughout the state in helping school districts develop better and more up to date policies and procedures for handling the growing issue of bullying in schools.

"A number of us within the district have had the opportunity to attend trainings with her over the past six months or so and her name has emerged as a prominent figure in the landscape of bullying and cyber-bullying," Gina Kahn, director of the HWRSD Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant program, said. "She has developed national notoriety and has reached beyond Massachusetts with her work."

The presentation, which is free of charge and will take place in the Minnechaug Regional High School auditorium from 7 to 8:30 p.m., will include the subjects:

• Bullying and cyber-bullying: How do we know? What should I do?;

• Bullying, cyber-bullying and violence prevention; and

• Parent-school partnerships: Working together for success.

Anyone interested in attending is welcome, however, registration is required.

Registration forms can be downloaded in .PDF format on the Minnechaug Web site's community events page at

Parents of students may return completed registrations to their child's school or mail them to Janet Farrell, HWRSD, 621 Main St., Wilbraham 01095. Registrations may be electronically submitted via fax at 599-1572 or email at

All registrations must be submitted by Jan, 13.

"She does it in a way that is very clear and grounded in research," Kahn said of Englander's presentation. "I think having her talk to the parent community will strengthen the home-school link, which is so essential."

Kahn said that in the digital age, bullying is no longer just an issue in the playgrounds or the hallways, but something that can follow children wherever they go. Because of this, parental awareness and involvement is more crucial than ever.

"In the cyber environment we live in today, the boundaries have been blurred because incidents in one environment can work their way into others," Kahn said.

Kahn asserted that HWRSD "works very hard to maintain effective home-school commun-ication," citing the district's willingness to put the recent draft of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan on its Web site for comment as a specific example.

While some subscribe to the "kids will be kids" notion of bullying and believe that it is a normal part of growing up that can never be curbed, Kahn's belief is the bullying issue has been long neglected and with kids now "plugged in," it's only getting worse.

"With the rapid transmission of information, technology has increased our need for urgency in addressing these issues," Kahn said. "Hurtful remarks can be spread rapidly and cannot be turned off. There isn't any reprieve."

Kahn also asserts that addressing bullying doesn't stop with merely keeping children from picking on one another.

"Having an emphasis on this issue opens the door for focusing on pro-social skills that children need to be successful in an ever-changing world," Kahn explained.

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