Burbank teachers get anti-bullying training

Students snickering at their gay classmates. Others picking on students with special needs. Shoving. Racially charged jokes.

One by one, teachers at an anti-bullying training session in Burbank this week raised their hands to relay stories of their own experiences with student bullying.

Jay Gudzin, a teacher at Monterey High School after spending 21 years at John Burroughs High, said he could recall a time when his colleagues would write off bullying among students as “kids being kids.”

No more.

“It’s changed from normal everyday behavior to now it’s something we need to stop and prevent,” he said.

The need for additional training, organizers said, came to the fore after the suicide in February of 15-year-old Drew Ferraro, a student at Crescenta Valley High School who jumped to his death from a three-story building on campus in front of students and staff.

“We started talking about it after that,” said Lori Adams, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn.

The session provided the first districtwide, anti-bullying training for Burbank teachers and was hosted by the California Teachers Assn. for the entire Burbank Unified School District — roughly 700 teachers from kindergarten to high school.

“I think it’s something that’s way overdue,” Gudzin said.

A California bill signed into law in September 2011 requires school employees to intervene upon witnessing bullying, so long as it’s safe to do so.

A few weeks into the current school year, the hotline that Burbank Unified revived so that students can anonymously report bullying has not received any calls from local students, said Tom Steele, student services director.

Three calls were logged, but they were from Los Angeles Unified students, he said.

During training, Doyle said teachers are often asked “to change the world, make an impact, educate students.”

Less often, they’re told to change the culture surrounding bullying, he added.

Teachers were encouraged to return to their school sites and alter the culture “so we can get to the point where bullying is like cigarettes — it’s not acceptable,” Doyle said.

Among the ways educators can hamper bullying includes showing students the meaning of empathy and remaining consistent in responding to bullying.

“[They’re] things we can all take back into the classroom and talk to our students about in the bullying situation,” Gudzin said.

Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellymcorrigan.

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