District takes bullying seriously

Officials outline their efforts to stop the behavior, understand it and encourage students to come forward when it is happening.

November 21, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • Tayren, left, and sister Lacey, right, participate in the second annual march against bullying as the walk the downtown streets of Laguna to bring awareness to the continuing problem of bullying within our teenage society. The march and rally was put on by the National Association of People Against Bullying and many carried signs of teens who died from harassing behavior nationwide.
Tayren, left, and sister Lacey, right, participate in… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Last month's march against bullying by a group of San Clemente High School students near Main Beach was as much a visible reminder of this type of harassment and its severe consequences as it was a call to eradicate it from society.

And as recent allegations of bullying between two Miami Dolphins players reveal, bullying can occur between people of any age.

Laguna Beach Unified school officials take bullying seriously and employ many strategies to nip the offense in the bud.

Communication among teachers, aides and staff is critical to halt bullying in its tracks, according to Thurston Middle School Principal Jenny Salberg.

"We're as good as the info given to us," Salberg said.

In some cases, arranging a meeting where both kids are in the same room to talk can rectify the situation.

What often occurs is that the alleged bully doesn't know he or she offended or hurt the other person, Salberg said.


"Nine times out of 10, [the alleged perpetrator] will say, 'I had no idea [I was hurting you]. I was just having fun,'" Salberg said.

She said recognizing when a student could have been bullied is also important at Thurston, which teaches sixth through eighth grades.

"We do an outstanding job of noticing triggers: Do grades drop? Is there a change of friends? Is the person withdrawing?" Salberg said. "You have to provide avenues of support that best suit each kid to grow socially. Most kids are trying to figure out who they are and are learning various social cues, such as when to be funny, serious or firm."

Salberg differentiated bullying from bothering.

"Bullying is ongoing; bothering is a one-time offense," she said.

The perpetrator is usually trying to exert his or her authority over another person, said Jami Parsons, district counselor for El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools.

"Usually a bully doesn't feel good about him or herself and wants to make themselves feel more powerful," said Parsons, who has counseled in Laguna Beach Unified for nine years.

Bullying has always existed, but has received more attention in the last few years, according to Parsons.

"There's a heightened awareness through the media and there's a lower tolerance level [for bullying]," Parsons said.

Bullying manifests in multiple ways, offen varying between boys and girls, according to Parsons.

Girls tend to display relational aggression to establish authority, Parsons said.

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