MANCHESTER, NH – Superintendent Debra Livingston has completed her investigation into a complaint related to a Hallsville Elementary School class lesson and concluded that there was no wrong-doing by the principal, teacher or guidance counselor.
Dr. Livingston met Monday with the parent and his son, the principal, assistant principal and all of the adults who were in the classroom at the time of the lesson. Board of School Committee member Ross Terrio, who represents Hallsville in Ward 7, also attended the meeting.
“After hearing the perspectives of everyone involved, I’m confident that the lesson about bullying was age-appropriate and presented in an acceptable way,” said Dr. Livingston. “In my opinion, this is a case in which a parent disagrees with how a subject was addressed in school.”
The only Hallsville parent to come forward made his concerns public last week after he said his son described a lesson during which he claimed students were forced to yell obscenities to demonstrate bullying.
“One of our fourth grade teachers wanted to re-establish a positive classroom environment among his students,” said Dr. Livingston. “A guidance counselor from Webster Elementary School was invited to present a lesson she has conducted successfully in the past to show the negative effects of bullying. She was introduced to the class by Hallsville’s guidance counselor, whom all the children know.”
To begin the activity, a child-size paper cut-out of a person was hung in the front of the room, and the students were asked to write down an insult that has been said to them or an insult they’ve heard being said to a classmate. The slips of paper were collected and put into a basket.
Students took turns picking an insult from the basket and saying it to the paper cut-out loud enough for their classmates to hear. Some of the insults written by students indicated swear words, but none of them were spelled out, and none were spoken. Because the children were encouraged to speak out only at their comfort level, they could choose another slip of paper if they did not want to repeat their chosen insult out loud.
After insulting the paper figure, each student ripped off a piece of it. One by one, the students then apologized for the insult and replaced the piece they had taken. Taped back together, the paper child looked much different than it did before the insults.
“The guidance counselor used that observation to start a conversation with the class about the fact that people who are insulted – or bullied – are deeply hurt by words, even after an apology, and they might never be the same,” said Dr. Livingston.
Teachers across the city will continue to educate their students about bullying and prevent it in our schools. Various lessons are included in Manchester School District curriculum as recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Dr. Livingston has invited any parents who have concerns to contact her office by calling 624-6300 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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