Moscow School Dist. leaders focus on ways to combat bullying at forum

MOSCOW, ID - School leaders from the Moscow School District attended Wednesday night's forum to discuss what the district is doing to combat bullying, and why they say social media is playing a big role.

Bullying is a nationwide issue, but is it a problem here on the Palouse? Parents and Moscow High School Administrators gathered Wednesday night to talk about it.

"While Moscow may not have as some other places, we still have bullying going on and we've heard reports," said Moscow Human Rights Commission Chair Ken Faunce.

Faunce said that all of his kids had a positive experience in the Moscow Schools.

"You know, there was an occasional day or two that was bad, but overall," said Faunce. "And my daughter who just graduated from high school had a wonderful experience."

But as leader of Moscow's Human Rights Commission, he decided to bring leaders from every school in the district together to talk about what is being done to combat bullying.

"This school belongs to you!" said a teacher.

On the elementary level, administrators are trying to combat bullying by teaching empathy to students.

"This is a little boy who lost his sparkly rock, and a little boy that's trying to figure out how he feels and how he can respond," said McDonald Elementary School Counselor Kim Mikolajczyk.

But when students get to middle school, things aren't so simple. Moscow Middle School Principal Kevin Hill said it's the age when students start to figure out who they are as an individual.

"They're starting to experiment with things like cell phones, they're starting to get Facebook accounts," said Hill.

With Internet access comes cyber bullying, which can be difficult for administrators to detect when students don't come forward about being victimized.

"They have a really difficult time because they want to be their own individuals," said Hill.

Luckily, looking to adults for help doesn't seem to be as much of a problem for high school students.

"Based on their age and their maturity, they're more inclined to come to us for problem solving, and we're pretty good at it, to be honest," said Moscow High Principal Bob Celebrezze.

Administrators from all the schools agreed that bullying isn't a black and white issue, but they say when there is a problem, they investigate it thoroughly, in an attempt to understand all sides of the conflict.

Teachers also said it's important to speak up, if your getting bullied, make sure you tell them right away.

Moscow's Human Right Commission plans on holding a couple more forums this year. They're working with the University of Idaho to hold a forum on how to encourage safer drinking, which comes only a few weeks after a freshman student was found dead under a bridge in Moscow. Police said he was drinking at a fraternity party and wondered off, becoming disoriented.