As a part of Natick's growing fight against bullying, parents and educators met with a spokesperson from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center Tuesday night to discuss how to curb the problem in Natick schools. Since Massachusetts amped up its anti-bullying laws in 2010, the schools and Natick Parents Against Bullying and Cyberbullying have been offering more programs to help prevent and educate families about the growing nationwide problem. Some say, however, what is being done is not enough.
"We're all patting ourselves on the back...but there is a real problem here," said one father who preferred to not share his name. He said he experienced that the principals at the schools have been unresponsive when instances of bullying have been reported, causing some students to leave Natick schools. "Before we start congratulating ourselves there is even a problem right at this current moment. It's good that we're doing this, but it's not anywhere tipping toward the good side."
Wilson Middle School principal, Anna Nolin, who was at the MARC presentation at the Morse Institute Library, said communication is often an issue when bullying is reported to her. Nolin, who is a co-facilitator of the Anti-Bullying Coalition, said that nine times out of 10 when she receives a message on her answering machine, it is from an anonymous parent reporting the name of the bully with few details. Other times, she said, parents she knows will tell her about their children being bullied, but will ask her not to act on the report for fear of further bullying.
"Bullies count on your silence—that's a part of the fear-developing scenario," she said.
Co-chair of the Natick Parents Against Bullying and Cyberbullying, Christine Guthrie, said that creating a safer, bully-free environment for students is a process, not a destination.
"We need to constantly be talking about this. Parents need to be talking to parents, parents need to be talking to their kids and parents need to be talking to the schools," said Guthrie. "The goal is to constantly improve. You don't get to that promised land, you keep working towards it."
The Anti-Bullying Coalition has held about 27 programs in the past year and a half.
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