Spring-Ford School District officials seek changes following death of student

Concerned Spring-Ford parent Brittany Volm suggested the district look into the smart phone application “Stop It” to help tackle the problem of cyber bullying.
Concerned Spring-Ford parent Brittany Volm suggested the district look into the smart phone application “Stop It” to help tackle the problem of cyber bullying. Eric Devlin — Digital First Media

ROYERSFORD >> Still reeling from last week’s reported suicide of a ninth grade student— an alleged victim of cyber bullying, Spring-Ford Area School District officials promised to look at what could be done to try to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

In a statement Tuesday, school board member Mark Dehnert called the district’s bullying policy a failure and called for an immediate suspension of cell phones by students during the school day. He further wanted the board to authorize Superintendent David Goodin to examine the district’s current procedures on bullying and come up with a recommendation to better address it. Included in that would be counseling and support for a bullying victim. He said students needed to become more involved in denouncing bullying when they see it.

“Simply putting up anti-bullying signs and talking about bullying is not the solution,” he said. “Action is required. Bullying is wrong and collectively we must stand up against bullies.”

The district has been tremendously focused on alleviating bullying and “the majority of programming” in the district is directed toward the issue of resilience, Goodin said. He took offense to Dehnert’s implication that staff were standing idly by as bullying occurred in front of them.

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“We’re doing everything we can to promote safe environments,” he said. “The idea that adults are doing nothing and bullying is tolerated is false. It’s an absolute myth.”

Dehnert later clarified that he didn’t think people were standing by watching bullying happening but wanted students to take a more active role against it.

Goodin called on the community to lend its support in tackling the issue and come up with new ideas that could better address it. The district program called “Friend Watch” was an idea from a community member, for example, and allows students to anonymously report a friend they feel may be in trouble or needed help.

“These are big issues,” he said. “Oversimplified solutions or rhetoric isn’t useful.”

Addressing issues like the opioid crisis and cyber bullying was critically important to “addressing the social and health” of students, Goodin said.

“It’s paramount,” he said, adding though that the district also needed to find a balance to teach academics.

Lastly he said he hoped the district never faces a tragedy like this one again and the administration will doing everything it can to ensure it never happens again.

Board member Colleen Zasowski said Dehnert made a good point about getting students more involved. She said the school board has a responsibility to know what initiatives the district has to address bullying and promote them to the community.

Several board members liked the idea of expanding the district’s mentoring program at the high school which has mature high school students work with at risk students in eighth grade. Many agreed it might make students feel more comfortable talking to another student if they’ve been bullied than to an adult they may not trust.

Parents complained that this issue wasn’t around when they were growing up and felt more needed to be done to address it.

Parent Brittany Volm suggested a smartphone application called “Stop It,” that works similarly to “Friend Watch.”

“These kids are digital,” she said. “We need to be digital too.”