NANTICOKE -- Bullying was the topic of concern at Thursday's Greater Nanticoke Area School Board meeting when an expert and a parent confronted district officials.
Mental health professional Jo Ann Stone told the board about the concerns of 60 students who had participated in a grief counseling session with her at the St. Faustina Parish in Nanticoke after the suicide of a GNA student in September.
Stone, of Scranton, said many of the students were angry and felt that bullying was an issue in the student's suicide.
"The kids would like to know what happens to bullies," she said.
Stone praised the district for its efforts to provide programs on bullying, but she wanted to know what the district consequences are for students who bully.
"The kids have to know there are consequences for their actions," she said.
When board members mentioned suspension as one of the consequences, Stone suggested that suspensions are actually welcomed by some students as a holiday.
She suggested revoking the privilege of participation in sports and other extracurricular events would be a more effective punishment than suspension.
Parent Julia Robins of Nanticoke said bullying was a problem at the high school. She said one of her children had withdrawn from the school this week because of being bullied.
Robins listed the people she had contacted at the school concerning incidents in which her daughter had been called vulgar names by other students.
Board members were silent as Robins told of how she had reported bullying early in the week to the school's police officer and the school's guidance department.
She said she had received no feedback about what was being done to the stop it.
Robins too felt that consequences that mattered to the students would stop the behavior.
Stone said bullying today was "not the same old stuff. It's a disease."
"Suicide is the number three killer in America of children aged 10 to 24," she said.
When asked, Superintendent Anthony Perrone said that he was unaware of the situation with Robins' child.
Board President Jeff Kozlofski asked high school Principal John Gorham if he had been told of it. When he said no, Kozlofski said, "Make sure this is ended now."
Gorham assured the board that all reported incidents were addressed.
"We're very consistent with our discipline," he said.
Perrone said the issue of bullying was complex.
"Bullying begins at home. It's unfair to say that it's the school's fault," Perrone said.
Board Solicitor Vito DeLuca suggested that any teacher, administrator or staff member who hears about bullying should be required to report it to the superintendent.