Parents relate student’s story in urging action on bullying
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News September 25, 2012 6:38PM
‘Knights Against Bullying’
A group called “Knights Against Bullying,” was mobilized this summer and they came out this week wearing T-shirts and buttons.
Leigh Ann Reusche told the Kaneland School Board the group formed to address the issue of bullying as a community.
“It appears the district’s efforts to address bullying so far have been reactionary, instead of proactive and exclusive of input instead of inclusive which has caused us to question the objective of your efforts,” Reusche said.
“…We believe Kaneland has failed to adequately address bullying in our district,” she said.
The group asked the School Board to implement five recommendations: make bullying prevention a priority; assign a prevention coordinator; form a task force involving all stakeholders; adopt a comprehensive, district-wide plan; and implement, maintain and evaluate the plan.
Donna Dahlman said she served on the district’s original bullying task force 10 years ago.
“I do not believe there has been progress because that is why we have been pulled back into this to support the parents,” Dahlman said.
“(The district) needs to follow through with their plan,” she said.
— Linda Girardi
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:07AM
Tom and Darlyne Dwyer decided to take the difficult step of going public about their son in hopes of standing up for other families in the midst of a bullying crisis.
“We had given the district 17 months to make changes, to enlist the help of the community themselves and they chose to cover it up,” Darlyne Dwyer told the Kaneland School Board this week.
A standing-room-only group of parents attended a community forum Monday where Kaneland administrators explained the district’s anti-bullying efforts.
The Dwyers said they met over the summer with the administration and a School Board member, and then spoke with their son before going public.
“They put some things in place but that was not enough,” Darlyne Dwyer said.
The parents said the bullying of their child began in the third grade with name calling and mild physical contact, but it increased in intensity and frequency and by middle school it had increased significantly.
“There was never a day he was not bullied. It happened mostly in the hallways, lunchroom, bathroom and on the bus,” Darlyne Dwyer said.
She said they responded by contacting the school team and administration, but that only made matters worse for their son.
In 2010, when her son was in eighth grade at Harter Middle School, they became increasingly concerned when their son had stopped talking about the bullying.
“Eventually he told us he was being bullied and that he was suicidal so we stopped sending him to school. Five weeks later, he told us he was assaulted in a sexual manner in the bathroom during lunch by a group of boys on repeated occasions,” Darlyne Dwyer said.
Frustrated and disappointed with the administration’s handling of their complaint, the Dwyer’s went to the police and filed a report. Three boys were charged with seven felonies and six misdemeanors, including aggravated battery and mob action and they pleaded guilty to the lesser of those charges, Dwyer said.
“While our son is safe and no longer goes to Kaneland, we feel it is important to advocate for the other kids,” Dwyer said outside the meeting room.
Dwyer, a Kaneland educator, said the family believes the district’s anti-bullying protocol implemented in the spring of 2011 is a result of their son’s ordeal.
Superintendent Jeff Schuler, middle and high school principals, an elementary social worker and counselors addressed the components of the district’s anti-bullying protocol during the public forum.
They said “timely reporting” is critical in prevention, and they encouraged students to tell a teacher, counselor, friend or an adult.
“When we hear an eighth grader tell a younger sibling not to bother to report, that is a concern to us,” said Bryan Zwemke, Harter Middle School principal.
“We need to build a partnership, but we will only get there through a conversation,” Schuler told parents at the forum. “I believe with utmost confidence there is not an administrator in this room that will not be interested or willing to have a conversation with you.”
“It will not get better if it is us versus them,” the superintendent said. “We want to partner with you.”
Kyle Clausen, a 2011 Kaneland High grad, said he was bullied “from middle school to high school.” Clausen, now 18, helped to launch “Prevention of Dangerous Actions” at Kaneland High last year.
“Until staff gets out of their computer modules they are not going to make progress,” he said.