Rosemary Cope says she “loved school” — that is, until she got to high school.
“I hated high school because I was constantly bullied,” she said.
The subject of bullying is even more important to her now that she has kids of her own, including a special-needs daughter in eighth grade.
Cope was one of dozens of local parents to attend Effingham County’s first Parent University, held Saturday at Effingham County Middle School. She made a point to attend the session on bullying and its legal consequences.
“Some of the special-needs children don’t really even understand that they’re being bullied,” Cope said. “And sometimes, even being special-needs, they can be a bully, too, because they don’t know how to read the social cues or nuances. So I wanted to learn more about that so I can teach my daughter.”
John Penny of the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office began the seminar by telling the participants, “Raise your hand if you’ve never been bullied. Raise your hand if you’ve never bullied someone.
“I’ll prove you wrong.”
Penny, the school resource officer at ECMS, acknowledged that bullying has been going on “forever,” but said it “is worse now than it’s ever been.” Cope agreed.
“You don’t just have a fight and it’s over,” she said. “You can get killed, or they’re bringing guns into the schools, or they’re committing suicide because they’ve been bullied, so it’s really serious.”
Penny pointed out that “71 percent of school shooters have been bullied. However, that is not an excuse. There are other ways to deal with it.”
He told the parents that stopping school bullying begins at home. Penny said that, if children say they are being called words like “ugly” or “stupid” at school, parents must reinforce that the child is not any of those things.
“All we can do is educate our kids to know right from wrong,” Penny said. “If they do, they won’t bully others, or just stand by and watch as others are bullied.”
Bullying was just one of several topics covered during the day of free seminars. Other subjects included Georgia’s new common core performance standards, local reading initiatives, homework tips, Internet safety, and community resources.
Parent University-Effingham was sponsored by the Springfield Central High School Associa-tion, Effingham County Board of Education and community agencies. Organizers say the goal was to help parents meet their children’s needs by “bridging the gap between the home, school and community.”
“We wanted to offer programs that parents don’t ordinarily get a chance to learn about,” said Franklin Goldwire, assistant chairman of the Springfield Central Association. “We want to do things that will help parents to become better parents.”
For Michelle Murrell, the mother of a fifth-grader at Ebenezer Elementary, that meant attending the “parent portal” session. She learned how to use the computer to check her son’s grades and teacher comments.
“I loved it, because I’m not very good with computers,” Murrell said. “What my fifth-grader is learning now, I was learning in high school.”
Along with the seminars on academics and school behavior, one of the best-attended ones was a course on CPR. Registered nurse Susanna Jarvis of Effingham Health System demonstrated the proper way to give CPR to an adult, a child and a baby.
“It really is a simple skill to do, but it’s critical,” Jarvis said. “I think it’s crucial that parents, grandparents, really anybody knows how to do that, because you are the frontline and you have the opportunity to save somebody’s life.”
The sponsors plan to host a second Parent University in Effingham County on Feb. 2.