Bully task force switching directions

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


Members of the Caledonia School District bully task force have been working hard since last spring to develop bully-free school zones. Special time has been set aside at each school to talk about the topic; guest speakers have been brought in to educate teachers, students and residents about how to help stop the problem; and new policies were set in place this year.

Now the task force is hoping to generate a communitywide effort that will reach beyond the anti-bully message to include an overall message of caring and compassion in the community.

Scott Koepke, second-grade teacher and task force member, said the idea came from one of the guest speakers the district hosted.

“We want to move in a new direction. We would like to invite the community and businesses to come and have a huge brainstorming session where we try to come up with a word, phrase or slogan that our community can take ownership in. We’d like to have everyone come together, not just to fight bullying, but to treat everyone respectfully so that when people come to our community, people know who we are and what we stand for,” Koepke said.

The meeting is set for April 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the elementary school media center.

“I hope as many people as possible can attend the meeting,” said task force member Kari Neumann in a letter to the editor inside today’s Argus. “Our community task force is in no way turning our backs on bullying, but working for community support to keep bullying from hurting our community members and doing other things to make our community a better place to live,” Neumann said.

Koepke echoed the sentiment, saying that the discussion on bullying won’t stop but be enhanced by an overall broader cause.

In Hayward, Wis., for example, where the school mascot is the Hurricanes, the community adopted the slogan, “Act like a ’cane,” and the message is reinforced on signs, at restaurants, at the schools, at businesses, all over.

The antithesis and long-term effects of living in a nonsupportive environment has big implications.In one of the first long-term studies tracking the effects of bullying, Duke University researchers found bullied children grow into adults who are at increased risk of anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts. The study further found that actual bullies were four times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder. The study was highlighted in the April edition of Minnesota Educator.

Hoping to find new energy and a new direction, Koepke said he’s still proud of the work that has been accomplished so far. Just last week a student reported feeling bullied in an after school program. The issue was addressed and, “Hopefully we helped a kid,” Koepke said. “It’s not just about bullying – it’s about how we treat each other.”

If You Go

Who: Caledonia School District Bully Task Force

What: A community meeting to develop a campaign promoting Caledonia as a positive and caring place

When: 6:30 p.m. April 25

Where: Caledonia Elementary Media Center