Superintendent of Natick Public Schools Peter Sanchioni welcomed parents to Town Hall last night as he and the principals of all nine schools in the district were in attendance for a discussion about bullying and the ways to combat it.
"We do this on an annual basis," Sanchioni said at the beginning of the meeting. "Getting the award made us feel good, but we know the work isn't done. We always continue to evaluate our efforts."
Natick High School principal Rose Bertucci spoke first about a renewed interest in the bullying curriculum the past couple of years. She said that two guidance counselors lead the program, and that there are students on a leadership team. Some of these students even attend a three-day workshop with the Anti-Defamation League, and those students will teach the rest of the student leaders.
One parent praised the anti-bullying curriculum early on, saying, "I have seen dramatic change."
Still, the school administrators faced some tough questions from parents, some of whom have concerns about what is being done to not to try to get to the core of why a kid is bullying his or her classmates, but also what sort of consequences the child faces. As it is now, some parents seemed to believe that there needs to be a more solid line as to what constitutes too much, and at what point the school needs to step up and do more.
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The principals took each question and answered with well-thought out answers, often giving examples and explanations of how they try to teach the kids about bullying so that it hopefully won't continue. Teaching the kids seemed to be a key point of the bullying philosophy in the Natick Public Schools.
"We don't punish," Sanchioni said. "We discipline because the root of the word discipline is teach."
One parent asked the school administrators about relational aggression, a form of bullying where one child tries to hurt another child's social standing and/or relationships with other people. This form of bullying is most commonly attributed to adolescent girls in middle school.
Part of this discussion also took on a piece about how to know when to step in as a parent. A couple principals mentioned during the evening that there are times as a parent you want to step in and fix everything, but at the same time there are times when letting the kids work it out and figure it out themselves is a good learning experience. Figuring out that balance can be difficult for a parent.
"You're thinking, 'I don't want to be that parent,'" Wilson Middle School principal Anna Nolin said.
Sanchioni and the principals will be meeting on Thursday to discuss some of the things they took away from this meeting, as well as any other ideas that they may have. The Superintendent was also very forthcoming in stating more than once that if anyone has a question about school bullying, they shouldn't hesitate to email him.