Lehigh Valley

Bullying has parents and students concerned

Bullying has parents and students concerned

Bullying has been making headlines locally and nationally.

It's a concern for many parents and students and some say they want to see schools do more to address the issue.

It was the topic that dominated much of the Pen Argyl Area School Board meeting Tuesday night.

Parents and students spoke out against bullying and asked the district to do more to address the issue after the death of a 14 year-old in February.

Robin Zotynia says her daughter Courtney committed suicide after years of getting bullied.

Bullying has affected many families in many areas.

"I cyber schooled her because I didn't want her to have to go through the bullying," Sally Gehringer of Allentown said about her daughter.

"It's horrible, nothing's really getting done I don't think," said April Swift of Allentown, who said a relative has dealt with bullying. "The school does not do enough.

Gehringer added, "They don't take it seriously, it's just kids being kids 'cause they even go online then and they're bullying them online."

Local school districts say it is an issue taken seriously and there are things in place like teacher training and programs for students.

Dean Donaher, the director of student services with the Bethlehem Area School District mentioned the No Place for Hate program. He said, "They have to do several activities throughout the year or events that focus on tolerance, respect, anti bullying."

"We really do try to focus on creating an environment where every kid, every child, feels there's an adult in that building, in that room, in that school, whether it's a secretary or an administrator or a custodian, someone that they feel that they can go to and that cares about them," he said.

Nicolas Perez, the director of community and student services with the Allentown School District, said it's important to understand the definition of bullying.

"We need to understand what the act of bullying is and it has those three areas, aggression, it happens repeatedly over time and there's an imbalance of power," he said.

He said school officials can't tell a victim's parent how a bully was disciplined because of confidentiality.

"We really try to do our best to keep individual cases confidential. We understand that parents do want to have answers as to what's happening and it's important that they keep their lines of communication open with the school," said Perez.

One thing many school districts stress to parents and students is to speak up.

Donaher said, "I would ask people report things the minute they feel that the child is uncomfortable, don't feel 'well it's only going to get worse.' We will do everything in our power to keep that from happening."

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