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Spotlight on bullying

Medford School District parents and administration are both raising awareness about bullying in school communities through two events this upcoming week.

“There’s a lot of very similar stories,” said Marie Kewley, parent to two third-grade students at Wilson Elementary School. “And they’re all too similar.”

Kewley is the lead organizer of a march scheduled for Friday, May 31, to put pressure on the district to change how it handles bullying incidents.

Kewley pulled both of her children out of school early because of what she describes as incessant bullying targeting her son.

She felt that the response to her son’s situation, which she said began with a physical fight but also included name-calling and repeated harassment, didn’t do enough to keep him safe.

“What we’ve dealt with is a whole lot of being brushed off,” Kewley said. A safety plan that included stipulations to keep the students harassing her son apart from him was not enforced, she said, and the bullies kept at it.

“Send him to school, not even two hours into the day and he’s calling — crying, upset, because he’s being harassed and bullied again,’” she said.

She decided to pull both her children out of Wilson a couple of weeks before the school year ends and is searching for other options for the fall.

Before then, though, she wants to demonstrate to keep the conversation going.

The march will begin at Fichtner Mainwairing Park at 3 p.m. Friday, May 31, and will continue to the Medford School District office building at 815 S. Oakdale Ave., before a return walk back to the park.

Parents plan to wear their school colors to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the issue and wrap up around 6 p.m., according to the event’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the Medford School District responded to recent media reports and the organizing parents march by launching its own event, an open forum to address bullying concerns planned for Tuesday night.

A variety of administrators will speak first to kick it off, said Natalie Hurd, spokeswoman for the district. It will run at 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 28 at Hedrick Middle School, 1501 E. Jackson St., in the multipurpose room (corrected from previous version).

Michelle Cummings, the district’s chief academic officer, will present on the laws and policies guiding district responses to bullying. Jill Jeter, crisis prevention specialist, will talk about bullying prevention training. A school resource officer will be there to discuss his role in intervention and prevention.

“We are going to talk about some of those things that we are doing in our schools, but we also want to listen,” Hurd said. “We know that bullying is a painful experience and it is not acceptable.”

Hurd highlighted the district’s efforts to implement anti-bullying curriculum in all grades, as well as restorative practices including peer mediation and crisis prevention training for staff.

She wanted parents to know there will be plenty of time for question and answers at the event.

“It takes a village to raise our children,” she said.

Kewley and other parents organizing the march said they plan to be there Tuesday — but they’re still marching a few days later.

“We’re thankful that they’re having this meeting and pulling it together,” she said, “but our march will still go on.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Medford parents and administrators are planning events the last week of May to shine a light on bullying in schools.{ }Photo from 123rf.com.