Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Peabody MA Says Anti-bullying Law Too Much Work

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 16, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: anti-bullying, bullying, Carl Walker Hoover, cyberbullying, Massachusetts, Peabody, Ryan Halligan, South Hadley

How stupid are the school board and the school administrators in Peabody, Massachusetts?

They say that the law intended to save students from bullying and its often suicidal after-effects "creates more work for administrators, costs too much money and is ultimately ineffective."

"All of this is nonsense," said member David McGeney.

The new law, McGeney continued, "will increase the number of (bullying) reports, increase the number of lawsuits, increase the time staff spends trying to implement the guidelines, but I don't think it will increase the safety of students in a school district with a competent administration."

Mayor Michael Bonfanti said he shared those sentiments.

The main concerns are how much time and money will be spent on filing bullying reports, mandated teacher trainings and classroom time devoted to bullying prevention.

Peabody's proposed 11-page anti-bullying policy requires school staff to immediately report any bullying to the principal. If the principal determines that bullying took place, he or she must notify parents, administer corrective action, and take steps to protect the target of the bullying and any witnesses.

But it's all such a bother, complains the Peabody School Board.

Meanwhile, the father of Ryan Halligan, a 13 year old who committed suicide after relentless, evil bullying, just recently spoke to the students in Peabody.

Ryan Halligan was just 13 when he committed suicide in 2003 after classmates at his school in Essex Junction, Vt., harassed and teased him relentlessly, both online and at school. Recently, Ryan's father, John, spoke to every student about the events that led to his son's death. The brutal name-calling. The false rumors that he was gay. The story of the cruelty of a popular girl who pretended to like him online, only to laugh in his face and call him a "loser" in front of her friends as she revealed that the whole flirtation was a mean joke.

And Massachusetts state law even requires the school to have such a policy. The law was passed in response to the suicide deaths of 11-year-old Carl Walker Hoover, a sixth-grader in Springfield, who was ruthlessly teased, despite his mother's pleas to the New Leadership Charter School to address the problem, and she found Carl hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of the family's home just minutes before she was going to a meeting to confront school authorities again, and 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, a student at South Hadley High School, who killed herself after being raped and enduring months of torment by classmates in person and online, of which school teachers and administrators were aware.

So it's not really up to them whether or not they want to save kids from bullying. But I can't wait for the first lawsuit after they fail to enforce the law and their policy. Oh yes, that's one of their concerns too. Lawsuits. This will give parents a leg to stand on in courts. The School Board don't wanna be bothered with this. I supposed they would prefer to operate with complete impunity. Obviously, these people don't care about kids. Oh, they say they do. But not really. How vigorously do you think they're going to work on combatting bullying, with these attitudes?

For shame, Peabody, Massachusetts.

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And this is one of the states Barney Frank holds up as an example of why it's so hard to pass transgender protections federally? With people who think like this, in positions of power over children no less, is it really any wonder we can't seem to get transgender protections passed in Mass.?

So these people think that my life is worth nothing. I was relentlessly bullied throughout my school years. I made two suicide attempts when I was 18. I do not appreciate being one of "those people" who fall through the cracks. Thanks for the article Jillian.

"but I don't think it will increase the safety of students in a school district with a competent administration."

And until the state has such districts they need these laws.

?Not worth it?
I wonder what he would say if I came up there and treated him the way I was treated in school. Oh yeah, he's an adult and would call up the cops crying that he was beat up.
Well, if he thinks its useless then I say have the kids and parents call 911 every time bullying takes place. Arresting the bully and the jerk who thinks ignoring the law is ok because he thinks its 'a difficult law to follow'.

Investigating bullying complaints in this district will be so very time consuming? Hmmmm. Indeed no need for bullying prevention here.

It is silly that they do not do this, tragically silly.
There are some districts in Mass which are very safe. I live in Mass and I have two kids who are G/B and neither of them has been picked on and when their brothers were picked on the administration stopped it right away. I was also a marching instructor for my local school district and teach occasionally at surrounding districts and most of them have very good policies and enforcement. I have quite a few LGBTQ students and I have yet to hear any of them complain about abuse in our schools that was not addressed. Don't colour the whole State because of this messed up school district.

It *is* a lot of bother. It *is* a lot of paperwork. And if teachers would just be doing their damn jobs, it wouldn't be necessary.

But you "teachers" are not doing the job you're employed to do, trusted to do, so yes, you do have to do it, because of your own incompetence.

Don't like it? Resign. Don't do it? Get fired, because you're breaking the law, criminal.

Those teachers who do do their jobs have no problems with this law. There's no extra paperwork about bullying because they've not tolerated bullying in the past. It doesn't happen constantly because the School Culture doesn't encourage it.

It's hard to get people motivated to work they don't care about.

I had to go to my school (many times) to complain about my kids being bullied. Things seemed to start happening (positive) after a threat of sending them to private school and sending the bill to the school district (among other issues brought up). That and informing the principle that my kids WILL be calling the police should they feel the need (getting bullied).

Perhaps as someone suggested, any kids being bullied at this school should call 911 against the other bully (child) and when the 911 operator asks if he/she told an adult, say the ADULT was being a bully too by watching and not intervening.

After multiple calls to the police, the district will be forced to do something more than "ignore" the bullying.


I received the following email from Sharon Fermon, who I believe lives in Peabody. She graciously agree to allow me to post this here. She writes:

"After reading your article I contacted Mayor Michael Bonfanti who assured me that Peabody is, in fact, in the 2/3 of MA cities and towns who are in compliance with the state law by adopting a policy to deal with bullying in the school system. Your article deals only with some of the issues raised during the debate which preceded a unanimous (save one) vote to do so. For shame, Dr. Weiss, for leaving such an erroneous impression of our City."

It's a fair point. Some of the comments of the School Board members were pretty inflammatory, but the Board's actions in taking a vote show that, as a body, they know the right thing to do. I'm glad that Ms. Fermon contacted the Mayor, and that he, at least, understands this is an important issue, and not just a nuisance or a distraction, as some of the Board members seemed to feel.