‘Bullying is violence’

Parents, teachers can help reduce incidents

Building character will help reduce bullying in and out of schools, said Michele Borba, keynote speaker Saturday at a symposium called “Creating Positive Social Learning Environments: Eliminating Bullying in Schools” at Fort Lewis College. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Building character will help reduce bullying in and out of schools, said Michele Borba, keynote speaker Saturday at a symposium called “Creating Positive Social Learning Environments: Eliminating Bullying in Schools” at Fort Lewis College.

“We want to see Durango become the center of education excellence,” Mark Epstein told a small group of educators, parents and students gathered Saturday morning at Fort Lewis College’s Community Concert Hall for a workshop about ending bullying in schools.

Epstein, a Durango entrepreneur who is on the board of directors for Mountain Middle School and the Washington, D.C.-based Character Education Partnership, said a team is working on a grant for a communitywide character program in Durango.

Building character will help reduce bullying both in and out of schools, said Michele Borba, the event’s guest speaker.

At “the base of bullying is a dysfunctional relationship,” Borba said. “Bullying is violence.”

Borba, who also is on the board of CEP and has appeared in such arenas as NBC’s “Dateline” and “Dr. Phil,” said parents and teachers need a range of skills to teach their children how to handle bullying or to stop bullying.

“Bullying is a learned behavior,” and the first step after stopping immediate bullying is to find out whether that behavior is being modeled at home or elsewhere, Borba said.

Developing students’ character is part of the Mountain Middle School mission, Jackie Oros, MMS’s head of school said earlier at the beginning of the event.

MMS uses the CARE system to build student character that reaches far beyond the classroom, she said. CARE stands for community, adapt, respect and empathy, a word that came up numerous times in Borba’s talk.

Speaking after Oros, Michael Ackerman, head of Animas High School, said it’s important to “promote a culture of excellence through a culture of engagement.”

“We have a daunting task as educators,” said Daniel Snowberger, who became superintendent of Durango School District 9-R last year.

For instance, schools are “preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist (yet),” Snowberger said. “We need to collaborate with each other and support each other.”

Speaking after Ackerman, he said kids see bullying in the broader culture, from national political leaders to sports stars.

9-R schools have made significant progress in many areas, but they have made the least progress in stopping bullying, Snowberger said. Still, he said that when three of his own children entered Durango schools, they said they had never seen a group of kids as welcoming.

He also acknowledged Epstein’s goal for cooperation, or a “vision of one community, one goal.”

Speaking in the entrepreneurial vein, Epstein said that, “We leverage ourselves by being cooperative.”

An anti-bullying program will be given for 100 students and 30 adults April 2 at Escalante Middle School. Each of the 9-R schools will be represented as well as faith-based and other organizations.

rgalin@durangoherald.com

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