Parents get tips for stopping bullying

  • Thursday, November 1, 2012 12:02pm
  • News

By Jerzy Shedlock

Morris News Service – Alaska

Communication is essential to breaking the cycle of bullying. For example, tell your children their options for dealing with a bully, said Carla Abild, parent navigator with Stone Soup Group.

Abild recounted reactions of a parent during a bullying prevention event.

“We had one parent laugh and say, ‘Yeah, my son has Aspergers (syndrome), he probably could recite the entire school policy to a bully, but I don’t think that would help.’ But letting your child know what some of the rules are and what they can do to help is important,” she said.

Two parent navigators with Stone Soup Group, an Anchorage-based nonprofit supporting families who care for children with special needs, visited the Kenai Peninsula last week. Teachers from local schools and a small number of parents attended the bullying prevention event, gathering knowledge and resources. The event addressed aspects of bullying; the presenter discussed topics ranging from cyber bullying to disability-related bullying.

The event was geared toward parents. The nonprofit provided a folder of materials including information sheets titled “Bullying and harassment of students with disabilities,” “Common views and myths about bullying,” and “Steps to take if your child is being bullied at school,” among others.

The nonprofit works closely with PACER Center, a national bullying prevention organization. The center designed most of the training and materials provided at the event.

Abild highlighted online resources available through PACER’s website.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility,” she reiterated throughout the event.

Bullying is generally defined as a power struggle. If children are having difficulty emotionally or physically defending themselves, it’s bullying, according to PACER.

Abild said the definition of bullying usually includes repeated behaviors, but she disagrees.

“The first time you see (bullying) you want to stop it,” she said. “You don’t want to wait four or five times to make sure it’s a pattern.”

Alaska’s anti-bullying laws include the terms harassment, intimidation and bullying. There are no specific groups listed as protected under the laws, but schools that receive federal funding are required to address discrimination. Alaska’s schools can adopt a state-model policy for bullying, which the Kenai Peninsula School District has done.

Verbal bullying is quick and direct. Children with Aspergers syndrome often fall victim to this type of bullying because they’re easy targets. Classmates will rile them up on purpose, Abild said.

Physical bullying is easy to recognize. It greatly affects children with sensory issues. The fear of physical danger can lead to stress and sickness. Children will pretend to be sick or become ill as a result of physical bullying, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emotional bullying, like manipulation and gossip; sexual bullying, like violation of personal space to rape; and cyber bullying, described by PACER as the “new bathroom wall” are other types of bullying.

Kids with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience one or multiple types of bullying, Abild said.

A main area of concern for advocates is the potential of students dropping out of school. Children — those with and without disabilities — become afraid of school. Multiple studies indicate about 160,000 students miss school every day due to bullying.

Parents of children with disabilities struggle to show their kids that they are in fact being bullied.

Tonja Updike, who has worked with the Peninsula Community Health Service’s (PCHS) Children’s Health Improvement Program, sits on a state board that addresses autism. She also works in the Peninsula’s schools to teach young students about disabilities.

Despite her continued work with children she struggles to teach her own son about bullying, she said. Doctors diagnosed her son, 10-year-old Garrett, with autism when he was 18 months old.

“It’s much easier to talk about the concept of bullying to children, but my son doesn’t fully understand,” Updike said. “That’s a question that remains unanswered in a lot of ways. I can document things, but I can’t be around him 24/7 and neither can the school employees, so that’s a lingering concern.”

Another parent who attended the event echoed those concerns. Leslie Rohr’s 10-year-old son experienced bullying. Fellow fifth-graders taunted and tormented him, she said.

The parents, however, sat down with their son’s teacher, who agreed to discuss autism with the class while her son was absent. The difference was remarkable, Rohr said.

But adults tend to judge people with disabilities more severely, Updike lamented.

“It’s easier to talk to children, because they have less of a concrete idea about how people should be,” she said. “Adults already have their ideas and don’t want to change.”

The parents appreciated the guidance in local and state resources during the event, they said.

PCHS’s children’s program hopes to host more events throughout this school year.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

More in News

A school closure announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Schools closed for Tuesday in Homer, Anchor Point

Winter storm continues through Tuesday morning, with high winds.

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

Diamond Ridge Road near Homer, Alaska, had been plowed on Monday morning, Dec. 5, 2021, but visibility was limited. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
School district announces 90-minute early release today.

Winter storms makes driving difficult on southern Kenai Peninsula.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

Most Read