An answer to bullying in Bossier?

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Resident offers a solution to ongoing issue

A south Bossier resident claims he has found a solution to bullying.

Mike Dooley said his history as a civil servant and working with troubled teens through the Bossier Parish truancy center and the drug court system has given him an insight into the problems that local youth face. Over the last eight years, Dooley said he continues to run into the same problem.

“Everybody out there is trying to address a symptom. You don’t have a drug problem. You don’t have a truancy problem. You don’t have a runaway problem. You’ve got a behavioral problem and everyone is attacking this the wrong way.”

This observation has helped him develop a plan he wants agencies around Bossier Parish to consider.

“I’ve been working with at-risk kids for probably the last eight years and there are some things they are doing backwards,” Dooley said. “You will never solve these problems trying to address these symptoms.”

Instead, Dooley said the objective needs to be reaching a child before the point of suicide, build their self-esteem up and take their fears away.

“For a child to be bullied to the point where they take their own life, that’s torture. It doesn’t get any worse than that,” Dooley said. “Bullying is simple to stop. It’s so simple to stop. The main goal is helping the victim first.”

The next step, Dooley said, is turning attention on the bully.

“Give them the tools to straighten up, but still hold them accountable,” he said. “The way you do that is by writing the parents a ticket for improper supervision of a minor. That way it’s on record in the courts. It’s time to turn up the heat on the bully and the parents.”

Dooley said the key to bullying is behavioral modification.

“That’s probably the easiest problem to fix. You have to address the problem, not the symptoms,” he explained. “That’s the reason why children in our schools are going nuts. I’ve been doing this a long time and that’s the main reason I’m successful. I’ve been doing it this way for a while. The problem is no one wants to fix this or help these kids.”

Dooley credited the truancy department and the Bossier Sheriff’s Office Young Marines program as two local programs that are making a difference with at-risk youth.

“They are handling the kids right,” he said. “You discipline them because you care about them.”

Other agencies, such as the Bossier Parish School Board, have turned their back to his proposal, Dooley said. Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Schools, said the school system takes all allegations of bullying very seriously.

“While there is unfortunately no perfect solution to preventing bullying altogether, we not only act quickly and appropriately when incidents or allegations are brought to our attention but are very proactive when it comes to preventing any form of bullying, harassment or hazing in the first place,” she said.

Bossier Schools is required by state law to follow Act 861, enacted in the 2012 legislative session, as it relates to mandated reporting, continued education among employees and investigating complaints.

However, they don’t just stop there. Bailes said Bossier Schools go beyond what the state law requires by implementing numerous anti-bullying programs. Students from Legacy Elementary recently attended an anti-bullying program and Parkway High School will be hosting “TAG, You’re It: Suicide Prevention” later this month, as well as an “Understanding Bullying” program in December.

“Other schools have formed anti-bullying clubs and have bully boxes for anonymous reporting,” Bailes added.

Superintendent D.C. Machen has also committed to help fund Junior S2S, a student-to-student peer and anti-bullying initiative led by the Military Child Education Coalition that will benefit all middle school students transitioning into Bossier Schools.

“There is no question Bossier Schools is committed to do everything within its power to make our classrooms, hallways and campuses safe for every child,” Bailes said.

In the event that a bullying complaint is made, school level administrators begin an immediate and thorough investigation in which all parties involved. The process includes notifying parents, conducting interviews and gathering any documents that support or are pertinent to the allegation.

Upon completion of the investigation, parents/legal guardians of all students involved will be promptly notified of the administrator’s findings and any disciplinary action deemed necessary would follow. A comprehensive written report is also required by law, which Bailes said includes a five-page bullying investigation form, as well as the findings of the investigation, input from the students’ parents/legal guardians and the decision of the school or school system official. The document is then placed in the record of both students.

Faculty and staff members are also trained to handle alleged bullying situations. Bailes said their training begins well before students ever walk through the door on the first day of school.

“All of our employees are initially required to take four hours of training on bullying. This includes maintenance, cafeteria staff, everyone,” she explained. “The training includes how to identify various forms of bullying, what constitutes bullying and their responsibility as a mandated reporter. After this initial training, all employees that have contact with children must undergo two hours of follow-up training annually.”

Dooley said it all boils down to two things – “you either don’t care or you’re too dull.”

“I’m not doing this out of anger and I’m not mad at anyone. I’m extremely frustrated and I’m telling you we’ve got a problem,” he said. “I have handed them a format to resolve bullying that works and they still don’t know how to fix it. I will not sit back and let this happen anymore.”

Oh behalf of the Bossier Parish School System, Bailes replied: “While Bossier Schools shares Mr. Dooley’s desire to stop bullying from happening, we strive to ensure our students know any given person within our system is available to help and intervene when necessary.

“We will not cease to empower our students and provide them with the knowledge and resources to stamp out all forms of bullying, harassment and hazing.”

When asked who a child can go to at school if they are being bullied, Bailes simply answered anyone.

“We are all mandated reporters and must go to school level administrators if made aware of bullying,” Bailes explained. “Every school also has a counselor and School Resource Officers are at all middle and high schools. SROs are also at the elementary level each day on a rotational basis, as well as DARE officers.”

She also stressed that anyone can report bullying; not just school employees.

“Whether it is a parent or passerby that sees bullying take place as students go to or leave school, tell us,” she said. “It takes parental and community involvement as well to combat bullying and we are oftentimes limited to the information available at hand.”