It may be summer vacation, but school bullying is still on the minds of some parents.
Santos Martinez, a parent in Belleville, told the Board of Education that he has concerns about bullying going on in School No. 4 and is worried about his daughter and her friends.
"I think everybody needs to come together," said Martinez, a Belmont Avenue resident. "Everyone remembers a time when either they were bullied or they saw someone being bullied."
He said he’s heard about girls from ages 9 to 12 being bullied and had asked the girls on his daughters’ softball teams to write about their experiences with bullies and found their answers troubling.
"Every single girl involved said they were either involved in bullying or were bullied themselves," he said. "Some said that sending a bully to the office doesn't help, and that they were unable to go outside during recess because they were afraid."
Martinez said that some of the girls wanted parents of bullies to be punished.
However, school officials said they have a strong policy in place to fight bullying and urged anyone who is a victim or witness to such acts to come forward and report it.
School Board trustee Joseph Longo said Superintendent of Schools Joseph Picardo and the school board review reports of bullying before each public meeting.
"They have and will continue to take bullying very seriously," Longo said. "They have done a lot of their own research, and have kept open eyes and open ears, to make sure they stay on top of things."
Any parent not satisfied with an initial decision on a bullying report can appeal, Longo said.
He said that he knows Picardo and the school principals meet once a year to review how the policy is working, and wanted to make sure they are doing all they can. Longo said that he is proud of the district’s efforts. "Bullying is a very complicated issue, but the board is obligated to take a report any time anyone comes forward, and there is now a legal definition."
Belleville school officials said that if a parent believes there is bullying going on he or she should tell the school principal, and the principal is then obligated to generate a report, an investigation takes place, and then the parent has the option to appeal to Susan Grillo, director of curriculum and instruction, and then to the superintendent.
The district follows state rules that require the superintendent to keep a record and report all the findings the full school board.
Martinez and Longo both agreed that the issue must be monitored very closely, because of what is at stake."Hopefully, soon or kids won't have to worry about being bullied," Martinez said. "I've been exposed to so many conversations, and I'm very concerned."
"The consequences can be really bad, as in a suicide, and we just don't ever want to see that," Longo said.