Our Opinion: Bullying in school is everybody's issue
According to testimony offered at the closing moments of last Saturday's annual late-summer retreat convened by the Lenox School Committee, bullying is a serious problem in the system. Evidently, last year several students transferred out of the district rather than endure further abuse. School Committee member Francie Sorrentino alluded to a culture wherein students not only bully other students, but even teachers bully students as well as one another (Eagle, August 28). While the number of official reports documenting bullying incidents remains relatively low, that is probably an inaccurate indicator since so many remain unreported.
Rather than fault Lenox for a problem that will require a concerted transformation of existing school culture to resolve, we ought to applaud the School Committee for its candor and for facing up to a problem that surely rears its head in other schools in Berkshire County. Only by exposing the infection of bullying to the light can it be effectively addressed. The alternative — sweeping the problem under the rug, which schools across the state and nation have done — will only allow it to fester until finding remedies becomes far more difficult or even impossible.
Superintendent Kimberly Merrick is brand new to her job, which means she can attack this problem with all the resources at her command without concerns about defending her past record or protecting old colleague. Repairing a damaged culture does not take place overnight, but if she can show demonstrable progress during her first year, her efforts should stand as a call to all Berkshires superintendents to take an objective look at their own systems for similar signs of cultural illness, if they have not already, followed by direct and unflinching action if such signs are found.
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