Bullying among students and the responsibility that parents and district employees have when it happens was addressed by six of the seven school board candidates Monday during a forum hosted by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates also opined about budget issues, traffic congestion and other issues, but it was the bullying problem that got the most time.
“Certainly, the schools have quite a bit of responsibility,” said incumbent Christine Walters. “The adults in schools are part of shaping who students become and what kind of citizens they are with each other.”
She added that parents were also responsible for being aware of how their children treat family, friends and siblings.
Incumbent Greg Krikorian said a student who had hit a fellow classmate had confided that he had seen his own father hit his mother at home.
“It's easy to blame the school district, saying it's their fault,” Krikorian said. “Sometimes it's ourselves, our parents, our own lives. We need help.”
Challenger Armina Gharpetian said students should be reminded daily at school that every day should be a “no bullying day,” and echoed the sentiments about parental involvement.
“As parents, we need to take huge responsibility,” she said.
Incumbent Joylene Wagner said the district needs to train staff and faculty often, including clerks and custodians — anyone who has daily contact with students.
“That is part of the training they get now, but it's probably never enough. We need to renew those efforts continually,” she said.
Former teacher Daniel Cabrera encouraged greater peer accountability among teachers in how they respond to bullying.
“It's those unkind words. It's the double entendres that the kids don't get,” he said. “That's what I see in the classroom so often.”
Former teacher Jennifer Freemon said every adult resident could impact students, regardless if they are teachers, parents or local residents.
“The one single thing we can provide for our kids is a positive adult interaction,” she said. “If you see those teenagers walking down the street, making eye contact and saying hello goes a long way, as opposed to ‘What are these kids doing?'
We can do that as a community and each of us can take that step.”
Candidate Ali Sadri did not attend the forum.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.