Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 19, 2011

Hyde Park Elementary tackling bullying

NIAGARA FALLS — Bullying is a nasty act of demeaning another individual. The educator’s job is to make sure those instances are kept out of the school, or if unsuccessful, mediated quickly and efficiently.

But what if what the students consider bullying really isn’t bullying, at least not by clinical definitions?

“It’s a very gray area,” Sheila Smith, principal of Hyde Park Elementary, said. “In fact, when we sit down and talk with those involved, sometimes it turns out it’s not really bullying at all.”

Smith, along with some of her staff, presented to the Niagara Falls City School Board Thursday. The presentation is part of the district’s goals of highlighting a certain desired character trait each month for staff and students to develop. Called the Character Education Program, the students this month focused on kindness.

One of the programs which worked the best so far this school year, according to Assistant Principal Jerry Orfano, was the implementation of an anti-bullying pledge. He said the students took to it in October, stating their intentions to refrain from bullying others.

Other programs the school has used to help keep bullying out of its doors include a T-shirt contest featuring anti-bullying slogans, a visit from Falls Police Det. Shawn Bosi and Officer Mike Corcoran to the school’s televised morning show and participation in Unity Day in October, where students wore orange T-shirts in support of those who are victims.

The teachers also received bystander, bullying and bullied checklists for remediation use.

“We work hard to prevent bullying,” Orfano said of the staff at the school. “We try to be in the classrooms, we work on anger management skills. A large part of our job is remediation between the students.”

But when bullying does find its way into the school, Smith said the key issue is communication. She said it needs to happen immediately because the longer it waits, the worse the feelings get for those involved.

She said both students and parents need to tell the staff, whether it be her, Olfano or any teacher, because they’re finding they don’t know soon enough to keep bullying from being a factor.

With increased communication, she said, incidents can be worked through with certainty.

“Please call us first so we can communicate,” she said. “Often times, we don’t hear about it immediately. But once we do, I can say 100 percent of the time, the matter is resolved (quickly).”

The district as a whole has addressed bullying multiple times this year, a hot topic any school year, after Williamsville teenager Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life after being bullied. There is a message posted on the district website,, explaining to parents all the things the district does to help children refrain from bullying and how they should deal with it if they see it or experience it.

“The district takes seriously the responsibility we all have, as adults in children’s lives, to model appropriate behavior, to be a resource for a child in need, and to hold accountable those who harm others,” the message says. “We thank the greater community for supporting and joining in this work.”

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