Stopping bullying in schools should be left to school officials, according to local law enforcement officials, but, police will step in when necessary.
“If it happens in school, we let the school handle it,” Chief Michael Tautin of the Meadville Police Department said. “Officer Mogel will intervene as well or Sgt. Falco if it’s at the elementary level.”
Officer Nicholas Mogel is the Meadville Police Department’s school resource officer at Meadville Area Senior High School and Sgt. Neil Falco is school safety officer for the police department.
If a parent has an issue with bullying of a child, the school should be contacted first "because the schools deal with it through their policies and protocols,” Tautin said.
“We work with the schools’ administration first, but we’ll take a role if requested,” Tautin said in regard to bullying disputes.
Falco works with kids every day, mainly at the elementary age children level and oversees the department's school crossing guard program.
He, too, said the idea is to have the school take care of a situation first because of policies.
“But, I’ve had parents come to my office because they don’t think it’s been taken care of to their satisfaction by the school,” Falco said.
During the course of a school year, Falco estimates he gets about a half dozen incidents of either a parent or child wanting talk to about a bullying incident. If that happens Falco then talks to the kids involved in the situation.
“Depending on their age, when I talk to them I explain we can file a charge on them if the behavior continues.”
When it comes to bullying, Falco said he tells kids who are victims they need to stand up for themselves, but it doesn’t mean in a physical way.
“Let the bully know ‘I don’t like how you’re treating me’ and walk away from the situation,” Falco said. If it doesn’t solve the situation, children should then tell an adult.
The Crawford County District Attorney's Office expects schools to deal with bullying when it happens on school property because of school policies in place, Francis Schultz, the county's district attorney, said
“But if it arises to a criminal level, it can result in charges like harassment or terroristic threats (depending on the situation).”
Regarding cyberbullying, Schultz said there are simple ways to avoid it — such as not going on social media sites.
“If you’re bothered on social media maybe it’s time take a break from it and turn it off,” he said.
However, if threats there escalate in their wording it, too, can rise to the possibility of criminal charges being filed, Schultz said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
What to do if you’re bullied
There are things you can do if you are being bullied:
• Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
• If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.
There are things you can do to stay safe in the future, too.
• Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
• Stay away from places where bullying happens.
• Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.