School district takes a stand against bullying.

June 13, 2018

Hart Public Schools Superintendent Mark Platt and Board of Education President Chad Coker talk to students during a recent forum aimed at preventing bullying. Contributed photo.

School district takes a stand against bullying.


HART — Hart Public Schools Superintendent Mark Platt and Board of Education President Chad Coker know all too well the lasting effects bullying can have on students, and they decided to take a proactive stance in an effort to stop the negative behavior.

“As you know, bullying is a topic that many people talk about and sadly experience,” Platt said. “It isn’t unique to schools and occurs in every facet of society. This doesn’t make it right or provide any excuse. The effects of bullying can last a lifetime and have lasting impacts on people. The vast majority of the time when you hear the word bullying, people think of schools and students. However, bullying is too generic of a word as it really is harassment. We have seen in the news countless times, the adults can be just as guilty.

“Over the past year, Board President Chad Coker and I have discussed the concept of creating a monthly forum where members of the board, the superintendent and the student body will meet monthly,” Platt said. “We used the last full day of school this year (June 8) to launch the concept to the high school student body. Currently, we have the high school student leadership group report monthly at our board of education meetings to the board.

Contributed photo.

“While this committee will have student leadership in it, it is not exclusive to student leadership students and will be open to all students. The world needs more compassion and understanding. The best vehicle I know is having people talk in a safe and open environment where people can share without judgment. Maya Angelou once said, ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’ Sadly, our country seems to argue over their differences instead of embracing each other.

“One the biggest concerns with bullying is the imbalance of power. This can be defined several ways, but in the case of students is often defined in terms of popularity. Opposite of our days of growing up, social media can often be a vial tool that permeates the privacy of many and can be easily hidden and hard to trace. These issues often end up being turned over to law enforcement. Hart’s goal with this approach is to be open and involved. We know bullying exists, and our goal is to reduce it and help students navigate the difficulties associated with it.

“We wanted to have the kids have a voice in issues at school,” Coker said. “We wanted them to be able to meet monthly with administrators and board members directly. A main point of topic will be 1) what is happening?; 2) how it is being handled?; and 3) how can we improve it?

“We want to look at enforcement and reporting of incidents,” Coker said. “Being able to track repetitive aggressive behavior is one of the most important metrics, and that means the incidents need to be reported by the student and logged by the teachers and administrators. Another goal is to help give these students the tools needed to rise above the bullying that they are seeing. We wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor putting them in a bubble, and we would like to give them the ability to deal with these issues well past their school years and into adulthood. This will give us a great opportunity to really get to the nuts and bolts of what goes on in a school system, and we will do everything in our power to provide a safe learning environment.

“We have great teachers and great administrators, and we have a lot of faith in their ability to handle these issues,” Coker said. “We want to add another layer of support to help deal with any and all issues. It was important to Mr. Platt and I that these kids felt like they had someone to turn to.

“Many of them felt that there were no avenues of support beyond their teachers. Many didn’t understand proper channels of reporting and the proper procedures for reporting and follow up.

“I see a lot of pain in some of these kids. Bad home lives, tough time at school, just equates to a bad life. Unfortunately, there are a lot kids who feel better about themselves by running them down. We will make it known that it’s not tolerated, and kids will be sent home. Parents should be the ones teaching them to be good people. Sadly, it falls on the school.”

“There is a great book out called the ‘The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander,’ and it will drive our discussions, conversations and directions,” Platt said. “Our new high school principal Brandon Bruce will be very much involved.”

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