Transparency and openness go a long way in cultivating trust between a community and its leaders. That much became starkly apparent following the recent allegation of waterboarding on the Kelly Walsh campus.
When district officials refused to release relevant information about an incident of waterboarding on the KW wrestling team, parents were rightfully upset. They were left in the dark about an incident that could’ve put their children at risk. They knew practically nothing about what the district had done to handle the problem and ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Many students and parents also spoke out about experiences they had with bullying, and some felt the district and school officials handled their incidents callously. The stories shared a common pattern: A student was bullied; they told someone at the school and that person did not resolve the matter.
It quickly became evident that the bullying problem in Natrona County wasn’t one isolated incident. And the extent of the problem was unclear.
But Natrona County School District officials announced last week that they would conduct a top-to-bottom review of its bullying policies and procedures, with a goal of making their responses more efficient and transparent.
And we’re glad to hear that. Because too many students and parents feel the district failed them. The district owes it to every student to take claims of bullying seriously.
Rewriting the policies to be more transparent is a good first step. Student privacy should be protected, but the district can and should provide basic information to help parents and students understand the extent of the problem.
But district officials shouldn’t stop there.
They should compile and release annual bullying statistics from throughout the district. District leaders can use the information to enact better policy and address problems. And the data will allow parents to make informed decisions about their children’s wellbeing.
The district should invite students to come forward and share their experiences. The students are the boots on the ground; they see and experience the bullying first-hand.
The culture of bullying needs to be addressed from the top down. So it’s encouraging to see the district acknowledging it can do more to make things better.