Natrona School Board Sought Comments On Bullying; Only One Person Responded
The Natrona County School District has worked for months to refine an anti-bullying policy, but when it asked for public comment at a board of trustees work session Monday, only one person spoke.
Kemdsey Huffer is an educational assistant in the district, a parent of two children, and said the culture of a school is important as well as class sizes.
"The number one influence on school culture is school size, in particular class sizes, and that the smaller the school the smaller the class sizes the lower the risk of school violence, the lower bullying incidents that kind of a thing," Huffer said.
That's a difficult goal because Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools are already over capacity and are exceeding the state-mandated requirement that classes be no larger that 25 students, she said. Those schools have received waivers to hold larger classes, she added.
Trustee Dana Howie has spearheaded the work to revise the harassment, intimidation and bullying policy that was tentatively passed by the board of trustees at its meeting two weeks ago.
The final vote will be at the board's regular meeting on Sept. 24.
After the regular meeting Monday, Howie expressed some disappointment that more people didn't speak.
"I hope that going forward people will understand how hard we worked on this, and realize that they could have had a lot more of a say if they needed to," Howie said. "Maybe they're happy with what we're doing."
"And Kemdsey had a good point about class size, and about school size," Howie said. "Unfortunately there's not a lot we can do about it because of finances."
The lonesome turnout Monday marked a sharp contrast from nearly a year ago when Huffer, her son, and dozens of parents and students protested the trustees' proposal to phase out the Star Lane Center and close three elementary schools and Frontier Middle School.
A policy change differs from closing schools because the former appears abstract and a decision made by experts, while the latter was something that directly affected families, Huffer said.
A policy drafted by and explained by experts can seem intimidating, she said. "You show up and there's these people who you feel have the know-how and have the resources to make great decisions for your kids; and it is so easy to say, 'I'm going to trust them, because I don't know what I'm talking about.'"
With bullying in particular, those who were bullied in school may just want to do what they can for their children and it can't be changed, Huffer said.
Those who weren't bullied don't understand how powerful such an experience can be for a child, she said.
Howie echoed Huffer's insight, saying bullying is a subject that doesn't mean much until it directly affects them.