Elkhart Community Schools hold anti-bullying assembly

NOW: Elkhart Community Schools hold anti-bullying assembly

ELKHART, Ind. --- Parents, city leaders, and Elkhart Community School officials gathered together Thursday to discuss a new way to address bullying after one of their own — 12-year-old Rio Alred — died by suicide due to excessive bullying.

“If Rio didn’t do anything she made us think about what’s next and this is just one part of it. What actions can we do to help our administrators, our city officials?," said Rod Roberson, Mayor of Elkhart.

Over the past year bullying has gone underreported throughout the district with only two cases of physical incidents recorded, according to state data.

Assistant Superintendent Sarita Stevens says the low numbers stem from the lack of in person learning due to COVID.

“There was quite a bit of disregulation when students returned face to face so there was a social interruption and so now we have to make sure we do the extra things to mentor children. To help parents understand developmental stages and to intervene so that we can help children be healthy on both sides," said Stevens.

After seeing the community response following the tragic death of Rio, Stevens says the district is bringing in help from several partners like Oaklawn — to provide parents with resources and education on how best to deal with bullying outside of the classroom.

“We need parents to support us. If we’re imposing a consequence we need to be able to partner with the parent, to give them strategies on how you know to help your child," said Stevens.

The goal is not to make parents feel embarrassed their child is exhibiting bullying behaviors, but to give them the education on how to stop or recognize bullying is happening even when kids are at home.

“Look for those little warning signs. Maybe they’ve got extra bruises. Maybe they’re starting to miss things from their backpack that they shouldn’t be missing for school or camp. Pay attention to that and then start to ask questions," said Trisha Lightfoot, Triple P Team Leader.

The district is still asking parents for more feedback.

It will have a survey up on its Facebook page for a week.

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