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Article updated: 5/8/2013 11:45 PM

Kaneland bullying report falls short for some board members

Teresa Witt

Teresa Witt

 
Tony Valente

Tony Valente

 
 1 of 2 
 
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A report on what Kaneland schools should be doing to fight bullying left two members of the Kaneland school board disappointed Wednesday.

The report, including an action plan, was presented by members of an anti-bullying task force that was formed in the fall after the group Knights Against Bullying complained to the board that the district's response to bullying was inadequate.

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Board member Teresa Witt asked Wednesday why a student had not been included on the task force. And board member Tony Valente, who agreed with her, asked why recommendations weren't based on Kaneland-specific data.

"This does not serve our community. This does not serve our students," he said. He also said the task force should have had more community members. One parent was on the task force, KAB member Leigh Ann Reusche of Elburn.

Administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, social workers, counselors, a bus driver, a lunch monitor and the transportation director were on the task force.

The task force met three times. At the first meeting it brainstormed anti-bullying programs; at the next, it audited the cultures of the schools and the district, including what they were already doing regarding bullying; and then it planned for next school year.

The task force presented plans for three age groups: Elementary, middle and high school. They called for developing school leadership teams, which would include students. Those teams would then develop, implement and measure plans tailored to those schools.

It also recommended working with the PTOs to plan an event for parents on bullying, as well as funding for some programs.

Two programs the task force recommends using are Rachel's Challenge and Chick Chat.

Rachel's Challenge was established in memory of Rachel Scott, who died in the Columbine school shootings in 1999. According to the website rachelschallenge.org, the program equips students and adults "to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion."

Chick Chat is for girls in fourth through sixth grades, and was just used in the Geneva school district.

"What our research showed was that fourth grade is a tough year, especially for girls," Erika Schlichter, director of educational services for grades sixth through 12th, said. There is a lot of anxiety, as they approach changes to adolescence.

"That seemed to be our target area for K-5."

She and curriculum director Sarah Mumm said building-specific planning can be done once the district receives the results of the state-required "Five Essentials" survey that parents and students took this spring. Valente said it seemed, then, that the task force had put the cart before the horse. The state expects to release the data in June.

He also had a problem with the name of the Chick Chat program, saying it sounded "a little sexist to me"

"I would not want my daughter called 'chick,'" said the father of two daughters.

Witt said having a student on the task force would increase student buy-in, and that a high-functioning student could handle the work.

And Reusche also thought student involvement would be valuable: "I also think it is worth it to get a couple 'Mean Girls' on the board, to learn their language,'" she said.

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