Middle school students have channel to stop harassment
Teasing, name-calling and a new best friend every week are typical in middle school.
But what happens when teasing turns into harassment?
South Tahoe Middle School Principal Mike Greenfield is dedicated to providing a healthy learning environment where all students feel safe.
“If kids have a problem, they need to see an adult,” Greenfield said. “We can’t do anything about it unless we know about it.”
The Safe School Help Line is advertised throughout campus and allows students to report an incident anonymously.
“There is no way a student is not aware of this service in this school,” Greenfield said. “And it’s completely anonymous, unless you want to give us your name.”
When a student calls the help line, he or she is connected with a representative in Ohio. The complaint is documented and sent to STMS.
“It’s a third party all the way,” Greenfield said. “And we check into everything. That’s what’s so valuable about this service. We follow up on every single call.”
Some kids call to report someone bringing cigarettes or marijuana to school. Others fear they are going to be beaten up, or are the recipients of dirty looks or gossip.
Once a problem is reported, it’s worked out, according to Greenfield.
“The truth is, the matter stops,” he said. “It’s over. It’s done.”
There are also other resources available to STMS students who feel threatened or are just plain tired of being treated poorly by their peers.
“There’s a lot of adult supervision on campus,” Greenfield said. “And we have three counselors, one for each grade level.”
Eighth-grade counselor Marilyn Pawling said kids who aren’t getting along usually work things out when they’re brought together.
“We try to work with the students, giving them some guidance on how to deal with conflict,” Pawling said. “We really try to follow up and find out what’s going on. Most of the time kids hurt each other’s feelings and when we get them together, they’re really sorry.”
School Resource Officer Jeff Reagan is also on campus four days a week to help solve conflicts between students.
“Generally, there are two sides to each incident,” Reagan said. “They know that if there’s any kind of problem they can come to me as a police officer.”
Assistant Principal Kathi Jensen stressed the importance of reporting harassment before it becomes a consistent occurrence.
“The kids that have the most success are the kids that the minute someone bugs them, they come let us know and it stops,” Jensen said.
Greenfield, Reagan and Jensen agreed that once an issue has been resolved, kids seldom try to retaliate against the person who reported it.
“We’ve never not taken care of something,” Reagan said. “Usually the kids shake on it and the problem is solved.”
Greenfield uses some clever techniques to nip it in the bud.
If a student is picking on someone, he’ll demand that they not only stop their own inappropriate behavior, but protect their former victim from other harassers, as well.
“I’ll say ‘OK, you’re this kid’s guardian angel now. You make sure nobody bothers him. They do and it’s on you,'” said Greenfield, who recognizes that problems are inevitable with the age group he’s dealing with.
“The thing about it is, these kids know how they’re supposed to behave,” he said. “And we do not put up with stuff going on here. Whatever it takes, we get it solved.”
If you are a student at South Tahoe Middle School and you feel you are being threatened, harassed, mistreated, or have other concerns relating to school, call the Safe School Help Line at 800-418-6423, ext. 359. Your name won’t be asked.
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