The Hispano Chamber of Commerce sponsored the second Town Hall about bullying in schools, Thursday evening at the S.O.Y. Mariachi Center. The meeting was sparked after a series of complaints to the police and schools about bullying in the Roswell Independent School District.
Bobby Villegas explained that the purpose of the meeting was to apprise parents of the responsibilities of each of the agencies. He said, “People need to know about the rules and what to do to report bullying in schools.”
RISD Superintendent Tom Burris said that the State mandates each school district to develop its own policies, and RISD follows a series of steps and protocols.
The first is to mediate the incidents between the students and if that is not successful, the schools may get the parents involved. For reasons of privacy, the schools cannot tell the parent of a bullied student what disciplinary measures were taken against the bully.
Burris called cyber bullying, Facebook and text messaging the worst form of bullying that the students face, and the schools have no control over those media except to prohibit the use of cell phones inside the school buildings. Burris recommended that parents restrict the child’s access to the social media.
Roswell Police Department’s School Resource Officer Miguel Lopez said bullying is a parenting issue and not something with which the police could interfere until it escalated to threats, harassment or actual violence. Then he said that, with children under a certain age, the best the RPD officer could do was issue an arrest citation.
Some panel members and people among the audience felt bullying should be set up like truancy, where the parent was held accountable for the child’s behavior. Lopez said that this was not necessarily the best answer since many parents tried to deal with problem kids at home without success.
Rebecca Trujillo, with New Mexico Mental Health Department School Health Advocate, told parents about the School-based Health Center, where both the bullied and the bully can get counseling. “Often the children who bully are bullied outside the schools … and come to emulate the behavior. We try to help the victim to understand it is not their fault. (With the bully) it is our goal to de-escalate this behavior.”
Villegas said the Town Hall was only the first step. The plans for the future include a committee with representatives from all over Chaves County to develop a comprehensive strategy for bullying similar to the one in place for truancy.