'Bully-free' is school goal
With 63 to 81 percent of grade 3-4 students saying they "feel very safe" in their Perham classroom, it suggests the school doesn't have a "bullying problem."
But taking a closer look at a survey conducted by school social worker Julie Vomacka, 30 to 40 percent of Perham 3-4 graders don't feel entirely safe outside, on the playground.
"It is during recess. That's where I hear the most concerns..." said Vomacka at the June school board meeting.
"Bully-free" is the goal of the Perham-Dent administration, staff and school board.
"The numbers on the survey look good overall," said Superintendent Tamara Uselman. "But when you stop to realize that that's somebody's kid who is being picked on, it hits home."
According to the survey responses, 12 to 13 percent of 3-4 graders say they are hit, kicked or pushed every day. In addition, 14-17 percent of the grade 3-4 youngsters responded that "other children say mean things" every day.
The survey generated lively discussion--and a genuine sense of sympathy--among school board members.
Another survey result indicated that 3-8 percent of the grade 3-4 students spend recess alone--every day--because nobody wants to associate with them.
"When you think about it, there are seven kids in the third grade that are alone every day on the playground...that's sad," said board member Dave Schornack.
Board member Mike Hamann said he was alarmed by the survey results.
Nobody is suggesting that there is a risk of extreme violence in the Perham-Dent district, but Hamann offered this cautionary comment in relation to the tragic school shootings elsewhere in the country:
Kids can do "horrendous" things to other kids. In the shooting incidents, bullying has almost always been a factor. "They get to the point that they just can't take it anymore," said Hamann.
"School is the best chance some of these kids will get in life," said Hamann. "We really need to get on this."
Hamann further suggested that student council members and student leaders need to have the "gumption to stand up for what's right...help protect some of their peers who are not physically or mentally strong enough to handle this."
"We need to take the initiative to help out--especially in kindergarten to fifth grade," said Hamann.
School staff are observant, and are seeking out the students that appear to fall into the victim category, said Vomacka.