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Q&A: How to handle bullying in class, online

It's all right that students use Facebook, but abuse should be dealt with immediately by parents, district official says.

November 02, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer )

While cyberspace bullying isn't a new concept, it keeps surfacing in schools due to the popularity of social media, like Facebook. To help reduce problems, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District plans to hold an Internet safety class for parents from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Davis Magnet School, 1015 Arlington Drive, Costa Mesa. For more information, call (714) 424-7930.

Last week, at the Board of Education meeting, Rebecca L. Bishai, the district's director of student services, outlined some of the progress being made to prevent bullying in the district's schools.

The following is a Q-and-A interview with Bishai, who's been with the district for more than a decade. She first served as a high school guidance counselor at Estancia High School from 1997-2000 before becoming assistant principal there from 2000-03. From 2003-08, she was the principal of the district's adult education program before she was promoted to director of student services.

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What is the most important thing that both parents and students ought to know about bullying, whether it's in the classroom or on Facebook?

We want all students to know that they can always seek the help of adult if they need it, and that they can also seek the help of teachers if they need it. Parents should also get involved. If everybody is aware of an issue, it's a lot easier to stop it before it gets out of control. Increased education and awareness are the first steps. And remember this: Any kind of bullying is unacceptable. If it happens to just one child, it's happened to one too many.

Could you give an example of an instance where a school helped a student recently by knowing about the issue?

Yes, there was a kindergartner who was afraid to go to school because a boy kept picking on him and shoving him around at school. He started to tell his mother that he had a "tummy ache" and that he wasn't feeling well and didn't want to go. When we found out that the real reason he had a tummy ache was because he was actually being bullied, we talked to the parents, and the student who was bullying, and got to the bottom of it. The student, because he was so young, didn't even realize the extent of his actions. And the boy's tummy ache, well it got miraculously better, and in two days, he was back at school.

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