School Bullying Just A Media Hot-Topic? Apparently so at Prestwood

Editor:
I recently walked into a local grocery store where an anti-bullying petition or public campaign for awareness was circulating out front as you walked in. I thought nothing of it really, remembering as a Sonoma youth some 35-years or so ago how acts, now given fancy nomenclature like “bullying, were dealt with back then. Dealing with it meant a big crowd would gather at the “dyke” near Altimira or one of the back fields at any of the other local schools and the two combatants would duke it out for final resolution and what-ever outcome the issue was usually settled. It appears times have changed since the good old days of the original conflict resolution.

No more than a few days after flippantly walking past this bullying petition I unfortunately now have an experience of someone subject of such abuse, and yes right here in Sonoma at what was in my day of local schooling the prestigious Prestwood Elementary School. I write to the Sonoma Valley Sun not because of an incident that occurred between a few boys ganging up to bully one, although that is what is most important to me, but as a community member sharing school administrators eagerness (read sarcasm into this use of “eagerness”) to address such an issue. Now picture an 8-year old who one day earlier had just celebrated his birthday trying to protect themselves from rock-throwing agitators while crouched beneath a picnic table, I am told not the first time these kids have done this but an escalation to this point; this would be a disturbing scene even if one was not directly connected to the victim. There was a parent witness that stepped in to stop the one way altercation; both mother and victim were in tears for hours afterward.

It is my understanding that this happened mid-day and that the mother of the victim was told that the Principal, Jason Sutter, would not have any time to speak regarding the issue until “sometime” the next day because of a meeting with a teacher or something of that nature. So, to my point, is school bullying just a media hot-topic or should this administrator have made it a priority to listen to what might have occurred during his watch as leader of Prestwood School? Maybe he could have offered the services of his vice principal to gather some preliminary information or to assist with determining the extent of the issue? Would he have felt differently if this had happened to one of his four school aged children, would it have been important then?

I am not one in support of constrictive or excessive laws or regulations but there are no fewer than 10 California state laws that cover bullying and that according to a government web-site “Schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics.”; I assume bullying fits within that statement. Would Jason Sutter prefer to investigate and get to the bottom of this incident internally, or by his action does he feel a law enforcement investigation to determine the severity of this issue and possibly jeopardize his school’s funding is a better course of action? Maybe this is where our Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Louann Carlomagno, might want to look into creating a bullying policy for our local schools or review the current policy to see if it has been followed appropriately in this case. Prestwood School as well as the SVUSD’s actions will tell whether or not bullying is a media buzzword or something more important. Swift and severe justice should be handed down to discourage future occurrences or even worse escalations of aggressiveness.

Prior to writing this letter to the Sonoma Valley Sun, a call was made to Jason Sutter, who didn’t have the time to talk and a voice message was left at the office of Superintendent Carlomagno to discuss the matter and I am eagerly awaiting a reply.

Stephan Berosik
Sonoma


9 Responses to School Bullying Just A Media Hot-Topic? Apparently so at Prestwood

  1. Jason Sutter says:

    Thankfully we don’t solve conflicts by slugging it out like “the good old days” anymore. Instead we talk with the students involved. Bullying and peer conflict (which are different things) happen regularly at every school. The issue is whether the adults in the situation address the issue or let it slide. The issue that spurred you to write this letter was addressed yesterday and appropriate consequences followed. I also met with the mother of the child first thing this morning. I felt compelled to respond to this letter because so much of the information you share is not accurate. We do not always get it right at Prestwood; that would be impossible. But we care deeply about all our children, and we always do our best to get it right.

    • Ellie Katzel says:

      Mr. Berosik’s letter is itself, an exercise in bullying. He is painting a school administrator and an entire school campus with a libelous brush, based on incomplete information and ignorance of school programs and curriculum. This selfish attack is a problem and not a solution. Jason Sutter is accessible and responsive as site administrator. The Sonoma Valley Sun should be ashamed for allowing such a prejudicial and mean spirited letter to find print. This paper and its advertisers have lost my support

      • Sun News says:

        Ms. Katzell,

        However much you disagree Mr. Berosik, the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section is open to all readers to share opinions, including yours.

        Freedom of thought and speech is not a shameful thing. The Sun would rather be attacked for running an extreme opinion than censoring it.

        Not running the letter would not make Berosik’s opinion go away — it would merely hide it away. Isn’t it healthier to get this in the open, where you and others can rebut his argument?

        And as to your pledge to not support advertisers because we printed something you didn’t like — an ironic reaction in a discussion of bullying — please don’t blame friends of the messenger!

        Thank you for your comments,
        Val Robichaud, editor

        Is that not one of our functions, to allow this kind of conversation?

        Can’t we agree — somewhat ironically, when the topic is bullying — regret you blame The Sonoma Valley Sun should be ashamed for allowing such a prejudicial and mean spirited letter to find print. This paper and its advertisers have lost my support

  2. Jenine Akre says:

    Dear Editor,

    As the eyewitness parent Stephan Berosik briefly describes in his very heated editorial, I feel it is important to correct what he describes as a “bullying incident”. This wasn’t a case of “bullying” but a classic game of what happens when little boys get together and play with bark, sticks, or rocks.

    As I walked down the hallway towards the scene, all four children were actively throwing bark and laughing. One child proceeded to get under the picnic bench as if it were a hideout. It wasn’t until I arrived at the bench, that the child was then hit in the eye and began to cry. There wasn’t “a one way altercation” as described. I asked if the child was ok and if he needed to go to the nurse’s office. He said no. But he continued to cry so I sent him anyway. This definitely is a case of poor judgment by all four children to engage in game of throwing bark, as school playground rules state “no throwing bark”. As we all know “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt”. This was not “Bullying” but a game that ended in tears. Accusing and labeling a child, as a bully, in this incident is a very serious statement, which can create damaging effects on a child and the child’s family. Incidents such as these happen all the time as they have for many years. They are Children; Children who are in the midst of learning how to behave in a community and interact with others. Such incidents have the opportunity to create Teachable Moments. It is our jobs, as parents and educators to help children to develop social play, conflict resolution and safer play environments. I do believe that this incident has spurred such moments for many, including the four children involved and for all of us adults as well who strive for a safe and positive environment for our Children.

    I do hope that everyone involved has learned a valuable lesson: that the most positive way to resolve conflict issues is through open, truthful and HONEST communications starting with the most basic levels between parents, then teachers and up the chain of command. It is truly unfortunate that Mr. Berosik chose to go straight to the media with inaccurate information and proceeded to slander our Public School, our Principal and our Superintendent. Shameful, in fact, that the very thing we are concerned with protecting our children from, bullying, is the very same tactic that was used in his letter to bring attention to this incident.

    We are but models for our children to learn from…

    Jenine Akre

  3. Stephan Berosik says:

    Mrs. Katzell/Teachers of Prestwood

    I first have to convey I take complete responsibility for my actions and the initiation of this inflammatory topic and in no way did the mother mentioned by Mr. Sutter know or have any knowledge of my intention to open this dialog through this medium, she was as shocked as Mr. Sutter and Mrs. Carlomagno. If there are issues with the letter or these comments those issues are with me. Harassment of the mother is inappropriate and insensitive as well as ignorant on many levels not to mention acting to the maturity of those you teach. They know who they are and I hope they can take responsibility for these actions at some point.

    Mrs. Katzell I do appreciate your point of view as a proud teacher at Prestwood and the humbling affect of one’s description of an experience with your school. Your point is well taken and in the heat of the moment, the passion you and I both expressed, we are both guilty of “bullying” to some degree. Where you and I differ; well you seem to promote censorship, to the point where you hold the paper and advertisers hostage, something I hope isn’t in the curriculum at Prestwood.

    You and Mr. Sutter both seem to hide behind the notion of incomplete information, or information that is not accurately conveyed on my part. I have not been able to find a protocol for addressing bullying or “peer conflict” on either the Prestwood or the SVUSD websites, nor was a process explained to me what happens or how information might be conveyed when a tearful mother wants to talk to an administrator about an incident on the schoolyard. If action had been taken that same day as the response seems to indicate, why wait until the morning to attempt to calm a parent down?

    Kids will be kids, and things escalate, there are no bad kids in what happened, just kids that at early stage of life can be given direction or understanding regarding right and wrong and how actions impact people. This is not about laying blame or fault on any of the kids it is about appropriately handling the situation and adequately addressing the needs of all involved through sufficient and supportive communication. I have learned that Mr. Sutter is a supportive and open administrator that everyone likes from the kids up.

    I have no problems with Mr. Sutter, Mrs. Carlomagno any of the folks I may have agitated with my comments. I would like to know specifically where the information I share is inaccurate in my initial letter as well as where I can find become more informed regarding written bullying policies so I can trim this so called “libelous brush” back to a manageable and less demeaning level. I didn’t called Mrs. Ellie Katzell out by name while explaining the incident, but she certainly is entitled to her opinion and criticisms and attacks on my character. I would be more than happy to sit down with her to have her educate me on the subject, but I see that information can be found on both web sites. Type bullying or peer conflict into the search engines for either Prestwood or the SVUSD and see where it gets you.

    I have no plans to further discuss this issue in this forum, but I am interested in reading the thoughts that anyone else might have.

  4. Jenine Akre says:

    Dear Editor,

    As the eyewitness parent Stephan Berosik briefly describes in his very heated editorial, I feel it is important to correct what he describes as a “bullying incident”. This wasn’t a case of “bullying” but a classic game of what happens when little boys get together and play with bark, sticks, or rocks.

    As I walked down the hallway towards the scene, all four children were actively throwing bark and laughing. One child proceeded to get under the picnic bench as if it were a hideout. It wasn’t until I arrived at the bench, that the child was then hit in the eye and began to cry. There wasn’t “a one way altercation” as described. I asked if the child was ok and if he needed to go to the nurse’s office. He said no. But he continued to cry so I sent him anyway. This definitely is a case of poor judgment by all four children to engage in game of throwing bark, as school playground rules state “no throwing bark”. As we all know “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt”. This was not “Bullying” but a game that ended in tears. Accusing and labeling a child, as a bully, in this incident is a very serious statement, which can create damaging effects on a child and the child’s family. Incidents such as these happen all the time as they have for many years. They are Children; Children who are in the midst of learning how to behave in a community and interact with others. Such incidents have the opportunity to create Teachable Moments. It is our jobs, as parents and educators to help children to develop social play, conflict resolution and safer play environments. I do believe that this incident has spurred such moments for many, including the four children involved and for all of us adults as well who strive for a safe and positive environment for our Children.

    I do hope that everyone involved has learned a valuable lesson: that the most positive way to resolve conflict issues is through open, truthful and HONEST communications starting with the most basic levels between parents, then teachers and up the chain of command. It is truly unfortunate that Mr. Berosik chose to go straight to the media with inaccurate information and proceeded to slander our Public School, our Principal and our Superintendent. Shameful, in fact, that the very thing we are concerned with protecting our children from, bullying, is the very same tactic that was used in his letter to bring attention to this incident.

    We are but models for our children to learn from…

    Jenine Akre

  5. Kristi Draluck says:

    Dear Sonoma Valley Sun,
    I am concerned and wondering why you have not posted the letter to the editor which the parent witness submitted to you twice yesterday that contains the actual facts of the incident and would bring clarity on the issue. It is a FACT that it was submitted. I also feel strongly as a person, parent and educator for 27 years that the young student who was wrongly accused of being a bully, both publicly and privately, requires an apology from all parties and individuals involved. That is my OPINION. It has affected him deeply. I have a copy of the letter which the parent witness submitted to you twice yesterday if you need it. Those are FACTS. Please do the right thing: get the story right, set the public straight, and apologize to the student. I teach my Kindergarten students to always tell the truth.
    Sincerely,
    Kristi Draluck

    • Sun News says:

      All comments have been posted. Any delay was due simply to a staff day off: posts from new addresses must be manually uploaded, and there was no one here to do it.

  6. Nicole Jackson says:

    I am a proud Prestwood parent of two young boys. As a mom of young boys, I have to help them through DAILY poor decisions and learning from them. I’m sure my sons have thrown bark, and I’m sure they’ve had it thrown at them… such is life as a young boy, as much as the school tries to help them make better choices.

    I have met with Mr. Sutter both in person and over the phone as situations arose that I needed to be aware of as a parent. He has kept me in the loop, he has researched the situations, and he has continually acted fairly with consequences and built my sons up at the same time. I do not mind him taking the appropriate time to get the details correct, as that is fair to all children involved.

    I can not let one person speak to our town in such a negative way about a school community of teachers, administrators and countless parents who volunteer with out a response. They do a FANTASTIC job.

    As I said, I’m proud of Prestwood… Mr Sutter said it… they don’t always get it right, but they try really hard to, and I’m thankful for that and for the care they show to my children.