BAR HARBOR — There is no indication that bullying is more prevalent in area schools than it is anywhere else, but Superintendent Marc Gousse wants to make sure that when it occurs, it is dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
“Bullying is a very, very serious issue,” he told the policy committee of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board on Monday.
“I always want it reported. I would rather have (an incident) reported and investigated and then determine whether it’s bullying or not.
“I don’t want folks wondering, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ Yes, you should.”
Every school in Maine is required to have a policy on bullying.
The MDIRSS policy committee endorsed several, mostly minor revisions to the school system’s current policy. Some of the changes were recommended by the Maine School Management Association. The proposed amended policy now will go to the full school system board for consideration.
Policy committee member Teresa King-LeClair said students and parents may hesitate to report bullying because they fear the bullying will escalate.
“Sometimes they are afraid of retribution,” she said.
Gousse said he understands that reticence, but that is what bullies are counting on.
“If a kid is being teased incessantly or assaulted, I get that parents or kids don’t want to say anything because they fear it will get worse,” he said. “But does it ever get better? It doesn’t get better until we as schools do some things to address it. And that means all of our principals and administrators and counselors are trained.”
Gousse said that once the revised policy is adopted by the school board, “I will be holding a workshop with the principals, and I will expect them to go back and do that with their staffs.”
He said it isn’t just administrators, teachers and counselors who need to be aware of what constitutes bullying, how to identify it and to whom to report it.
“Bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and secretaries, they are the eyes and ears of our schools,” he said. “They are the people who are more likely to see things, and we want to cultivate that awareness.”
He said administrators in some school districts may think that if bullying doesn’t occur at school, then it isn’t the school’s problem. But he feels differently.
“If it happens involving students off school grounds, it’s still a school issue,” he said. “Bus stops are an extension of the school campus. If a kid takes a school computer home and sends something that is not nice to another kid, it’s a school issue.”
Gousse said that if parents have concerns about bullying, they should speak directly to the principal of the child’s school.