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Viewpoints: The bullying stopped with SRO’s presence

I will never forget the day I got a phone call at work from my daughter. She called me from her bus, and through her ragged sobs she told me about the bullying incident that occurred in her class. It was so out of hand, the teacher had to call the vice principal down to get the classroom under control.

The bullying incident went on for 15 minutes and just about every student in the class was involved. The target was my daughter alone. What had set it off? My daughter sneezed. She hadn’t sneezed on anyone, there was nothing special or offensive about the sneeze, she just sneezed. But for some reason that was enough to set off a savage verbal assault that went on for 15 minutes. My daughter bore it without a tear. And I was told that the ring leaders were “nice” kids.

I am very happy to say I don’t know who the perpetrators were, and I hope I never do. It’s not the kind of thing I could ever forgive. The aftermath of the incident was handled expertly by Conant High School Principal John Barth and Assistant Principal Larry Pimental, but something as horrifying as what my daughter went through does not happen out of the blue. It comes from an undercurrent of nastiness that builds over a period of time under the radar. In order to keep this sort of thing from happening, there needs to be an authority figure among the student population who knows the students and is an extra pair of eyes. This is what the school resource officer is. He is the extra set of eyes, with the expertise and the training to deal with the unique situations that exist with students in schools today.

I am not among those who feel that an SRO would stop a “Sandy Hook” from happening. I think that is wishful thinking. However, I do believe because of his training, he is able to recognize a student who may be at risk and is likely to become violent. We have a fairly small school population. That gives the SRO the opportunity to get to know the kids in the school and be more likely to recognize someone going through a crisis and hopefully have the opportunity to intervene before a tragedy occurs.

There was a time when I was truly afraid of my daughter being in school with the general population of students. She is on the autism spectrum and as I have said previously, had a history of being bullied especially by the so called “nice” kids. The first time I came to a meeting at Conant, I truly feared for my daughter being on her own in this school and the 15-minute bullying incident was proof of my worst fears. These types of things simply stopped happening once Officer Anderson started. The atmosphere in the school has been different and much more positive.

It seems like every day in the news we see another shooting, suicide or drug tragedy. There is no town or school district in this country that is immune. It is a shame to see the Jaffrey-Rindge School District take such a step backward on such an important issue with what appears to be so little deliberation or input from parents and students.

Robyn Payson lives in Rindge and is the mother of two daughters in the Jaffrey Rindge School District.

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