Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008 | midnight
The crackdown on schoolyard bullying in recent years has increased awareness of problems at our public schools involving degrading comments, intimidation and violence.
But the problem is still out there and, thanks to the Internet and cell phones, has taken on a whole new dimension. Some of our children are now taunted and harassed not just at school, but electronically with inappropriate text messages, e-mails and Web site postings.
That's why we were happy to see several schools in Southern Nevada start off the new school year by hosting presentations on bullying or kicking off yearlong programs aimed at reducing bullying — programs similar to those offered at various schools in Southern Nevada last year.
John C. Bass Elementary School in the Silverado area, for instance, held an assembly featuring students performing in skits that demonstrated how to properly handle situations involving harassment and bullying.
Students learned an important lesson: Bystanders to a confrontation can either aggravate the situation by chanting "Fight! Fight!,'' or they can intervene to diffuse the situation either on their own or by calling a responsible adult to the scene.
Similarly, if young people become aware one of their own is a cyber bully, or is being harassed by a cyber bully, they can intervene to show the perpetrator that such conduct is, well, not cool. A responsible parent or school official can also be apprised of the situation so it can be stopped.
It's all about making choices, and the Bass students are learning to make the right choices. Even more encouraging is that this wasn't just a one-shot assembly. The Bass faculty is committed throughout the school year to guiding students away from destructive behaviors like bullying.
"This is something you have to address so that children learn ... to treat others the way they want to be treated,'' said Principal Sheila Jones-Mosley.
At the middle school level, Silvestri Junior High School students should be commended for participating in that school's anti-violence program, Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE).
Besides addressing bullying at Silvestri, students there are taking their program to elementary schools.
"We're here to teach you guys how to deal with bullies and how to talk back with words and not be violent,'' Silvestri Student Body President Nick Paris told the Bass students.
On the other side of town, at Sig Rogich Middle School in Summerlin, students and teachers are taking another positive stand against violence and intimidation. This year, they are creating their own chapter of SAVE.
The student-run program will address problems that initially seem minor, but can get out of control if left unaddressed.
"I think it's a combination of things that cause it to get worse," counselor Lori Stout said. "It can be a lack of intervention, students not telling an adult, or kids not knowing proper conflict resolution skills."
Stout also makes a point we agree with: School progressive discipline programs should become stricter, with more parent conferences taking place right off the bat as opposed to just warnings for first-time bullies.
Because in the end, anything students learn about bullying must be reinforced by a strong anti-bullying message at home.