Citing pervasive effects of bullying, another group of Shawnee Mission parents call for counselor at every elementary

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In a series of emotional remarks before the board of education on Monday, a group of parents and students from Trailwood echoed the message Corinth parents delivered last month: Shawnee Mission Elementaries each need a full time counselor.

Two Trailwood fourth graders delivered troubling accounts of their experiences with bullying, saying that they and their parents had not been able to find a solution to persistent teasing and even physical abuse despite the involvement of teachers and building administrators.

“No matter how many times me or my parents tell them, the same problems keeps happening over and over again, and I don’t know why,” said one girl. “I just wish that there was a grown up who wasn’t too busy to talk to me during the school day.”

Another fourth grader told the board that bullying by his classmates had gotten so severe that he had considered suicide.

“I’ll admit that my feelings of being sad, lonely and even angry got the best of me. And I had even thought about not wanting to be alive anymore because of what was happening to me at school,” the boy said. “I seriously thought about killing myself because I felt that if I wasn’t alive anymore, the bullies would finally leave me alone.”

Those students’ mothers and two other Trailwood parents said that adding a full-time counselor to every elementary school would help address students’ emotional needs and help prevent bullying.

Kim Whitman told the board she had begun researching protocols for addressing bullying in Shawnee Mission schools after her child had a negative experience at Trailwood. She said she came to conclude there was little standard procedure for handling bullying or for organizing prevention programs.

“I don’t think there is a consistent system in place, and I there are far too few resources available to the children who are being bullied, the children doing the bullying and the children witnessing the bullying,” Whitman said.

The stories and concerns of the Trailwood parents mirror much of what a group of Corinth Elementary parents told the board at its February meeting, arguing that a range of social and emotional issues were detracting from students’ and teachers’ ability to focus on learning and instruction.

Emily Parnell said that the district’s unique position of being able to work with both the perpetrators and the victims of bullying gave it an obligation to provide emotional support systems for kids.

“Only the school has access to both sides, so that burden rests squarely on the school’s shoulders,” she said.