Penn Cambria parent questions bullying policy

CRESSON — Steps taken to curb bullying within Penn Cambria School District were questioned at a Tuesday night school board meeting, where a parent expressed concerns.

Ronda Dodson addressed the board during its public comment section to express her disappointment with language used at a recent event for parents, where bullying was discussed.

A Box Out Bullying parent workshop was scheduled for Sept. 5, according to the district calendar.

Mainly, Dodson’s comments on Tuesday focused on a reported suggestion from district leaders asking children to create a “tough outer shell” to protect themselves from hurtful bullying.

“The bullying policy seems to be putting the blame on the victims and not addressing the bullies,” said Dodson, who is a teacher in the Tyrone Area School District.

Dodson said Penn Cambria’s reported outer-shell message made her feel as though the responsibility to curb hurtful behavior has been placed on bullied students.

“We are in essence empowering the bullies,” she said, adding that bullied students may be made to feel it is their fault they have been targeted.

Dodson has a child in the Penn Cambria School District. Dodson said school leaders should work to empower “different” students who are left out and intimidated by others.

“Being different should not be confused as a bad thing,” she said, also offering a couple of questions to the board.

“Why are we teaching the kids in the district that they are not good enough, that they are the victims, they are the problem?” Dodson said. “Why aren’t we treating the problem; and that’s the bullies?”

School board members and administrators did not answer Dodson’s questions during Tuesday’s meeting session.

However, after the meeting a number of officials, including Superintendent William Marshall, approached her to discuss the issue.

Marshall spoke to Dodson, telling her that parents and students recently were subjected to different presentations and information about bullying.

He said it was made clear to students that bullying is a serious issue.

This spring, school board members approved a review of the district’s bullying policy.

It includes a definition of bullying and guidelines about how bullying-related information is to be shared, as well as possible consequences for violating the policy.

“The Board is committed to providing a safe, positive learning environment for district students,” the policy reads. “The Board recognizes that bullying creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, detracts from the safe environment necessary for student learning and may lead to more serious violence. Therefore, the Board prohibits bullying by district students.”

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.