Local expert weighs in on bullying after school fight

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The first quarter of the school year since students returned to in person learning is complete, but with it bullying behavior follows. From name calling to fighting, the emotional and physical toll bullying can take on students can be enough to disrupt their learning.

Bullying numbers were down over the past year due in large part to online learning, but with students back in the classroom and incidents like this week’s fight at Clay High School experts say it’s important for parents to have open conversations with their kids.

“I think that what the takeaway for all parents and for young people is that our words and our actions matter and they matter in ways that sometimes we underestimate," said Maria McKenna, a South Bend Schools parent.

Bullying is a common factor in many schools across the nation, even here in Michiana. Just this week a fight broke out at Clay High School after one student used a racial slur against another.

The heated moment caught on cam is just one of many that General Education Social Worker at Michigan Connections Academy Melissa Dahlgren says can be a learning experience for parents.

She says it’s a good idea for parents to start speaking with their kids about proper ways to deal with their feelings.

“We just feel the way that we do. We’re angry because we’re angry, sad because we’re sad. So you know it’s not that you shouldn’t be angry in that moment. You shouldn’t be annoyed in that moment, but it’s what you do afterwards," said Dahlgren.

The incident which led to 3 students being arrested sparked a large conversation amongst parents and it’s something Dahlgren says should be discussed within the home openly to help students who may have been bystanders recognize the dangers of not speaking up when seeing bullying behavior.

“Reinforcing that what happened was wrong it shouldn’t of happened and it hurt, but there is still something that you can do about it," said Dahlgren.

While the fight at Clay High had many parents even wondering if they could send their kids to school the next day, Maria McKenna who has kids in south bend schools, says she feels the district has been great at ensuring a safe environment for students on all campuses.

“I think that the south bend school corporation has done a really good job over the past few years at addressing some of the concerns that parents and families have had about mistreatment in schools. About bullying, but also about creating climates of belonging and care," said McKenna.

The district has been providing support services for students at Clay since Wednesday.

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