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Bullying—a major concern for schools; Wayne Highlands confronts bullying by encouraging good behavior

July 3, 2012

Whenever the subject of schools comes up today, bullying is apt to be of intense concern, especially for parents of young children who are the targets of some mean kids.

Public interest is so intense that a full-length feature film called “Bully” is in theaters around the country. (Locally, the film is showing only in New York City.)

Originally, the rating on the film was “R,” which means that children could not view it without being accompanied by a parent. But due to the intense interest, the producers of the film edited much of the footage so that it could receive a rating of “PG-13.”

Recently, The River Reporter interviewed the district superintendent of the Wayne Highlands School District, Greg Frigoletto, along with three of his staff: middle school principal Maralyn Nalesnik, middle school assistant principal Gerard Burns Jr. and high school assistant principal Diane Scarfalloto.

The four educators began by clarifying exactly what bullying is. “Bullying is a pattern of antisocial behaviors shown to other students over time,” Frigoletto said. “We have to be clear that it is not a single act of aggression toward another student. There must be a series of unacceptable behaviors. It’s then that we can do something about it.”

Many of the public today think that every act by one student against the other is bullying. Education has to be the first step in the process of correcting these behaviors. “There has to be a persistent, repetitive response by school officials, from the classroom teacher on up to the top administration,” Burns said.

“Our school system has a school-wide policy on bullying from the elementary schools, to the middle school and the high school,” Frigoletto said. “Consistency of response and immediacy are extremely important.”

Students need to appreciate how destructive bulling can be and not be hesitant to report such behavior to the school authorities. If the atmosphere in the school is right, students will feel right about reporting serious bullying, they said.

While most instances of bullying are adequately handled by the schools, there can be instances where extreme examples of this behavior can be handed over to the police and the district attorney. “We’ve had to do this in the past and will be ready to do it again if it warrants it,” Frigoletto said.