While not considered a huge problem, Dublin school officials acknowledge that the incidences of bullying and cyberbullying have been on the rise.
"Yes, with the advent of social networking, and with most students seeming to have phones or smartphones and access to social media like Facebook and Twitter, we have seen an increase," says Dublin School District Superintendent Steve Hanke.
Hanke is also quick to point out that these issues, along with drug and alcohol use, are being addressed head-on in the district through community meetings with parents, as well as through character-building programs in the schools such as "Courageous Conversations," "Dublin Pride," and "Red Ribbon Week."
The emphasis is on stopping misbehavior before it starts. But that's not always possible. And it's why the district is now publicizing a new anonymous tip program primarily for bullying and cyberbullying in which students or parents can download a form from the district website and send it in to their respective school. The tip forms can also be used to report alcohol or drug use or even child abuse.
"The intent behind an anonymous tip is that it provides you an opportunity to investigate locally to determine the accuracy of what's been reported before calling in the police," he says.
The district, says Hanke, wants to send out a clear message that schools will not tolerate bullying and cyberbullying. They also have a legal obligation as "mandated reporters" to report any suspected child abuse cases to the police.
While students can face school-based penalties for violations ranging from mandatory counseling to detention and suspension, the idea is to spend much more effort on the carrot than on the stick.
"The main thing is to get to the root cause," adds Hanke. "You'll often find that bullies have themselves been bullied at some point."
That notwithstanding, school officials also recognize that kids are going to be kids, which means act first, think later.
"The fact is that they have the ability to get instant gratification with phones. When they have a chance to send a text message or post a photo, they aren't necessarily thinking about the implications."
Hanke says there are three things every student should know about posting something -- in a bullying context or not -- onto social media. It's permanent. It has an impact on others. And it can go viral instantly with no way of stopping it.
Women's Club Scholarship: The deadline is approaching to apply for the Dublin/San Ramon Women's Club's annual scholarship program. To be eligible, students must be graduating seniors living in Dublin or San Ramon and attending either Dublin High School, California High School, Dougherty Valley High School, Valley High School or Venture High School.
Club member Virginia Castillo says applications, which can be found on their website, www.dsrwomensclub.org, are due April 26.
Fireworks Frenzy: And speaking of applications and nonprofit groups, this is the time of year in Dublin when local organizations try to win the equivalent of the lottery and submit applications to be assigned one of the city's fireworks booths for the July Fourth celebration.
Getting a fireworks booth usually translates into several thousand dollars in profits that the local organization receives for the selling of "safe and sane" fireworks products. Since there are always more applications than there are spots available, some organizations team up ahead of time to double their chances of getting a booth. Names are drawn randomly. Applications are due by 5 p.m. April 26. The drawing will be May 2.
Contact Alan Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org.