Scarborough school reacts quietly, visibly to bullying

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SCARBOROUGH — In light of some recent incidents of violence involving Scarborough High School students, the administration is reacting with a calm, but firm hand.

“We are increasing our visibility,” said Principal Dean Auriemma, who took his position at SHS this fall.

Auriemma, who came from schools in inner-city Chicago, said it was important for students to see teachers standing in the hallway between classes, that just knowing someone was watching was often enough to deter violence.

“It’s really a sense of comfort for (the students),” he said.

The school is also having formal class meetings to talk about expectations and bullying.

“If they want to blame me for being the principal who punishes bullying, that’s fine with me,” Auriemma said.

This reaction comes after several high school students were issued summonses by police in late November and early December, two for harassment and three for assault after four unrelated incidents. One student was taken to a doctor by his parents and treated for a mild concussion after an incident at the skate park.

“We’re really fortunate that our students will react to interventions,” Auriemma said.

Part of the challenge, he said, is convincing students that they can trust the adults around them and that they feel comfortable confiding in teachers or administrators when they feel angry, threatened or bullied. But that trust is the most important part of creating a safe environment for all 1,100 students at the high school, he said.

Also, reaching out to the parents and involving them as much as possible, Auriemma said, is an important part of keeping students safe.

But it isn’t going to be easy. On Dec. 18, another high school student was issued a summons, this time for disorderly conduct, for harassing a middle school student aboard a school bus.

Scarborough Police Detective Frank Plourd, who works at the school, said the department is making an effort to better track incidents of bullying and harassment in the hopes that interventions can happen earlier, before students resort to violence.

“This gives us a better idea of what’s going on. It’s better tracking in case something comes up again,” Plourd said.

But at the end of the day, Acting Superintendent of Schools Jo Anne Sizemore said the school has a no-tolerance policy for physical violence.

“We have no tolerance for anyone putting their hands on anyone else,” she said.

As the students who were involved in the December incidents return to school, Auriemma said he is working closely to make sure there is a re-entry plan and that everyone involved is aware of how that plan will be implemented.

“We need them to make good choices,” he said. “We need to be able to move forward with them.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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