SUGAR GROVE – Telling school officials that “Kaneland has failed to adequately address bullying in our district,” a representative from a group called Knights Against Bullying on Monday read a letter to Kaneland School District 302 officials that sought recommendations to be implemented “without delay.”
On a night in which Kaneland officials were expecting members of the group to show up in force, administrators invited those interested in the subject to attend a forum that was an hour before the scheduled school board meeting at Harter Elementary School. The room was packed. Among those in attendance were members of the anti-bullying group, parents, residents, teachers and officials in the district.
School officials – including Superintendent Jeff Schuler, Harter Middle School Principal Bryan Zwemke and Kaneland High School Principal Chip Hickman – told those assembled they take bullying seriously and explained the process. But many community members who spoke described issues of bullying that were reported, and they expressed frustration that the problems persisted.
Leigh Ann Reusche read the letter on behalf of Knights Against Bullying during the public comment portion of the regular school board meeting. She asked members of the group and anyone else to stand while she read the statement. Among the items she asked the district to implement:
“Make bullying prevention a priority,” she said. “Approach this with as much interest and importance as you place on passing the next tax referendum.”
The other four recommendations: Assign a prevention coordinator; form a task force “of all stakeholders”; develop a comprehensive, multi-faceted districtwide plan; and implement, maintain and evaluate the plan.
“Bullying is not a rite of passage, a problem in just middle schools, nor does it stop one day and go away for the victims,” Reusche said. “Many will carry these scars a lifetime.”
Many community members shared such stories, and Reusche’s daughter, Nadya, read a poem describing abuse she dealt with at Kaneland. Darlyne Dwyer described bullying of her child that was so severe that serious charges were filed. And former student Andrea Dahlman said she and her family came forward 10 years ago, and she “would never imagine that I would be here to address this” 10 years later.
Schuler and other officials outlined the district’s policies during the premeeting forum. Hickman said as a principal, he would make sure the school is a safe place. And Schuler said administrators and those at the forum “want the same thing. … This will not get better if this is us versus them. We want to partner with you.”
And while many in the crowd said that had been tried and they were ignored, Leigh Ann Reusche closed her statement saying, “Knights Against Bullying is committed to working with the school district to ensure that our students are safe.
“We will continue to advocate for those that struggle to advocate for themselves,” she said. “Strong people will stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.”