Schools take steps to keep harassment at bay

by: REVIEW PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: VERN UYETAKE - Teaching students what behavioral expectations are is crucial to avoiding bullying, Westridge Principal Scott Lane said.Bullying is a monster issue that barges into even the most peaceful schools.

Administrators in Lake Oswego public schools say they continually strive to keep it out by fostering a positive atmosphere, building relationships and mediating. Local schools all have similar consequences after a discussion in the school’s main office: detention, suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity. Most administrators focus on prevention, which takes a different form at each local school.

This October, the eighth annual celebration of National Bullying Prevention Month, marks a time to spread awareness about an issue that local schools address year-round.

  • Lakeridge High School offers assemblies for freshmen in honor of Rachel Scott, a victim in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.

    Her inspirational writings spurred a movement to spread her positive message. Lakeridge officials ask students to accept Rachel’s Challenge to be kinder: Look for the best in others, dream big, choose positive influences, always speak with kindness and start your own chain reaction (creating ripples of kindness with a single act).

    “We want to make sure that the environment’s not hostile, that it’s welcoming, comfortable, that everyone is in a frame of mind to be successful, healthy here at school,” Lakeridge Vice Principal John Parke said.

  • Lake Oswego High School Vice Principal Travis Johnson said teachers and staffers prevent the perpetuation of bullying by building relationships, so students know they can come forward if they’re being victimized. Adults then can step in and stop the problem.

    At LOHS, sophomore students watch a video called “Bully” and discuss its meaning. The Student Wellness Group is a club where shy students can meet twice a week at lunchtime so they don’t have to eat alone.

    Often, an incident is minor, and students just need to know they shouldn’t tweet snippy comments, Johnson said. Parents play a major role because school discipline doesn’t always stick without their influence, but it can be hard for parents to see their child as the aggressor, he said.

    A victim’s parent may say ignoring a bully will make him or her go away, but that doesn’t really work, he said. Students need to come forward.

    “I think it’s hard for parents to know it won’t stop,” Johnson said.

  • Lake Oswego Junior High Vice Principal Desiree Fisher said making expectations clear to students and teaching them their rights and school values prevents bullying. LOJHS’s anchor values are respect, responsibility and safety. Showing students how to uphold the values — by listening and saying positive things — also is important, Fisher said.

    Fisher said students need to be aware of bullying, to stand up against it and know they can come forward to talk about it.

    The whole district also has a strong counseling program, she said.

    “We try to support kids emotionally and socially, and I think our district does an excellent job of putting those supports in place,” she said.

  • Lakeridge Junior High Principal Kurt Schultz said he takes a proactive, comprehensive approach, and he builds a school culture around core values: Be safe, respectful and thoughtful. Schultz said the school builds on its values by having grade-level assemblies, direct instruction on expectations and ongoing advisory lessons and by recognizing a Student of the Month who personifies the school’s values.

    “Ultimately, we view the work of building a respectful, safe and thoughtful school culture as essential to our day-to-day work with our students, work that should and does continue every day of the school year,” Schultz said.

  • Principals at Westridge and Forest Hills elementary schools each have values and strategies to foster a friendly environment.

    Westridge has four codes: Be respectful, be responsible, be safe (physically and emotionally) and be kind.

    “You have to be very explicit in your expectations,” Westridge Principal Scott Lane said.

    Forest Hills Principal Gwen Hill said her staff uses the Second Step program, which teaches crucial social-emotional skills, including empathy and problem solving. Forest Hills holds school assemblies regularly, and when a situation arises, a teacher will use it as a teachable moment, Hill said. The school also teaches its students online responsibility. Digital insults can be hard to eliminate once they’re posted.

    “Someone can have read that and copied it and forwarded it to somewhere else,” she said.

    One of the most powerful tools is communication.

    “It’s not being afraid to talk about it,” Hill said.

    Bullying and the district’s updated policies

    Bullying brings to mind the classic physical-verbal assault, such as Biff Tannen taunting George McFly with a smack on the head and a jeer of “McFly-y” in the movie “Back to the Future.”

    Students now can issue an anonymous, digital slap online.

    Computer time often is logged outside of school and unregulated, but the problem spills into classrooms.

    About 8 percent of schools reported cyberbullying in 2009-10, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

    The district’s changing policies

    Lake Oswego School District governance documents on harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyberbullying are updated in compliance with ever-changing state law. A report issued in May called LOSD’s policies out of date. The school board soon after updated district policy on bullying, adding “gender identity” to definitions of protected classes.

    Laws have changed to make gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people protected classes. LGBT students may stand out from the pack, which can make them a target.

    More than 6 percent of middle schools and more than 3 percent of high schools reported harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity daily, or at least once a week in 2009-10, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

    Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @JillianDaley.

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