It’s a problem that goes far beyond the walls of the Sun Prairie Area School District, as fights and bullying have been on the rise across the city.
As reported in June, the Sun Prairie school year wrapped with back-to-back fights at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.
Following the fights, the district announced plans for an anti-bullying task force. The first meeting was held Monday evening.
“There’s a concern by parents, there’s a concern by students, there’s a concern by staff members,” said Tom Weber, vice president of the Sun Prairie Area School District Board and chair of the task force examining the issue.
Those concerns are what started the task force, bringing together law enforcement, the school district, and entire community.
“We need to explore, ‘Why is the behavior that we’re talking about happening? What’s behind that behavior,’” Weber told NBC-15 News.
According to a district letter released following June’s fights, the 2018-19 school year had the largest number of suspensions in the Sun Prairie Area School District since 2012.
Rogette Koby, whose 12-year-old daughter goes to school in Sun Prairie, said she was the victim of bullying during that time.
“At the beginning of the school year last year, she actually had a pretty large group that ganged up on her,” Koby said.
Koby posted her story to social media, and soon learned that the problem was more common than she thought.
“[I] learned that I wasn’t alone,” she said. “Not only that I wasn’t alone, that this was a huge issue in Sun Prairie, and that we needed to do something about it.”
Before they work on prevention, task force members hope to hone in on why bullying starts in the first place.
“Maybe there’s a reason that the child is bullying,” Koby said. “We all know that hurt people hurt people. So how do we help them?”
School board members say the problem goes farther than school grounds. They’re hoping the rest of the community will pay attention to bullying that happens after school hours.
“The only way that we’re really going to probably achieve a better place, is if we all come together, and start having a conversation together,” Weber said.
The Sun Prairie Anti-Bullying Task Force is set to meet twice monthly, on the first and third Monday of the month.
Beyond just the district, the City of Sun Prairie is also working to bring down the number of bullying cases. In an initiative that Koby spearheaded, and NBC15 News reported in March, an anti-bullying ordinance is in the works. If passed, parents could receive fines if their children are bullying other students.
The ordinance will likely be voted on at the next Sun Prairie City Council Meeting, on Tuesday Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.