Guest opinion: Park City School District has a ‘zero-tolerance’ bullying policy. Officials must enforce it.
On Aug. 30 parents of the Park City School District received a message titled “Board of Education Statement – Incident at TMJH.” We learned about the terrifying incident of violence that was shared on social media, showcasing one teen shoving another violently into a trash can.
I am fearful my son is on a track to become the next victim of similar behavior, as we’ve been living through countless issues of bullying and violence in the last year at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, with little sense of a lasting solution.
The CDC has published several fact-based resources that outline what bullying is and how to prevent it from happening and offer insight into the lasting impact on a victim of bullying. Bullying is defined as:
“Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children. It involves a real or perceived power imbalance, and the behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and kids who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”
As the ’20/’21 school year began, my then-8-year-old son started to come home with several reports of incidents at school. My concern heightened when I noticed a meaningful shift in my son’s demeanor, where for the first time, he expressed fear of going to school and was displaying low morale and energy regularly.
The CDC has reported that victims of bullying are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends and have a negative view of the school, among many physical symptoms.
In discussions with the school, it was exposed that the violent moments were unobserved by adults. Additionally, we were made aware of the specific individuals that were involved in these interactions, including their names and details of their living situation — a clear violation of privacy. Furthermore, several alarming decision-making quality flags were raised. For example, in an incident that occurred in June 2021, the usual suspects were chasing my son, and he attempted to run away. This led to my son’s arms being held behind his back and attacked by three boys. We were told that my son’s choice to run away was the cause of the problem and that he should have stopped and asked the boys if they were playing.
The ask I placed upon the school seemed simple: more supervision, and meaningful accountability for the issuers of the violence. My son was being attacked regularly, all while not being acknowledged as bullying by the district, a recipe poised to lead to incidents like what we saw at Treasure Mountain.
The PCSD Safe School Policy has been referred to as “zero tolerance”:
“Safe Schools prohibits physical force, violence, or threats of violence against another person. According to the policy, a first-time offender can be suspended for up to 10 days. School administrators can consider past disciplinary records, school performance, academic records, the details surrounding infractions, and student cooperation with the investigation.”
If policies like this are in place, why are they not enforced? It comes down to the word “can” in the above statement. It’s up to the interpretation of the authorities to decide, as it should be. The issue is how the implementation of the zero-tolerance policy is not occurring, showing a seemingly abundance of tolerance. But why? Reputation management? Catering to influential families?
I am a proud Park City resident. I want our schools to be top ranked for stellar education and atmosphere. As parents, we need to raise our voices and offer solutions. We need to recognize that what has gotten us here is no longer a viable solution. Safety trumps reputation management, and safety today requires an assertive implementation of the policy. The district owes our community action.
What are we doing differently to prioritize the safety of our children?
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