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Experts say parents must be in charge

by Merrie Leininger

People who generally see the community’s children when they are past the point of help asked parents at the Parent Safety Symposium at Douglas High School to be more aware of what their kids are doing.

The second break-out session of the Oct. 20 program included counselors and law enforcement officials describing what parents’ legal rights and responsibilities are.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Lesquereux emphasized to parents that it is not only their right, but also their responsibility to know what their children are doing at all times, because they can be held legally responsible if a crime is committed.

Lesquereux explained when he is called to a home to help parents with an “incorrigible” child, the youngster is often locked in their room with a variety of toys, and parents never think to take those privileges away.

“Parents have a right and a responsibility to know what’s in their child’s room or vehicle. Many times I have gone into a house and child has put a lock on his door that the parent doesn’t have a key for. Unfortunately, when they finally do go in, the find a whole array of things the child shouldn’t have,” he said.

Lesquereux also said parents have the right to remove property from their children if they determine it is not in their best interest.

“Driver’s licenses, phones, televisions, stereos, Nintendos. I don’t care if they bought it with their own money. You have the right to take it away. You have the right to search the child’s room anytime you want,” he said.

Lesquereux said parents need to pay attention to their children because “there is a big blanket of liability. It is your responsibility and you are liable in every way for what your child does,” he said. “You could be not only civilly liable, but also criminally liable if it is shown you knew they had access to a gun and they used that gun in a crime.”

He also suggested parents get involved with their children by knowing their friends, their friend’s parents and activities.

“Participate in school programs. I know a lot of you are 9-to-5ers, and being in the schools during school doesn’t work out, but there are some other programs you can get involved in that allows you to help your child. It will also allow you to make your voice heard about what happens to your child,” he said.

n Bullies and victims. Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School Counselor Mary Wolery spoke to parents about how to recognize if their child is a bully, or the victim of a bully, and what to do about it.

First, Wolery defined the difference between an aggressive child and a bully. She said aggressive children know violence is wrong, but think it’s OK to be violent in certain situations. Bullies couldn’t care less about what’s right, as long as they come out the winner.

“Bullies have a strong desire for power and control and maintain persistent abuse on the underdog,” she said.

She advised setting clear, reasonable and enforceable rules, and not waiting until there is a crisis to seek outside help.

Wolery also said children learn what their parents do, not what they say.

“Model how to deal with conflict appropriately and handle disputes with others. If a child is making you feel guilty about their actions, they are in charge,” she said.

On the flip side, if your youngster is a victim, Wolery said, encourage the child to be assertive and don’t protect them from acting on their own behalf. Demonstrate how to speak up for yourself and ask for help.

“Don’t belittle their feelings. Support them by helping them call the bully’s parents,” she said. “Remember that our teen-agers are more often the victims than the bullies. Look on them with compassion rather than fear.”

n In effect. Sgt. Stan Lamb of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office gave more information about programs in place to stop violence and bullying in the schools.

Besides existing conflict mediation programs starting in the 4th grade, the high school now has Peer Court.

This is a program funded by a Justice Department grant that pays students to act as jurors and conflict mediators on campus. Students caught fighting or bullying can choose to go through the juvenile justice system or face a jury of their peers. The idea was born out of the Community Action Team, a group of community members who are focused on making the area they live better.

A group of deputies, the School Safety Intervention team, follows up on cases and works with families to solve problems.

The students of peer court suggested an anonymous hotline which students or parents can call to report rumors of violence or bullying. The hotline is answered by a person 24-hours a day. Anyone can call 783-SAFE with information and it will always be followed-up, Lamb said.

Lamb urged people to get involved in childrens’ lives.

“We promise to do our best, but we cannot do it without your support. This gym is filled with smart people who care. Share your ideas. Get involved,” Lamb said.

Colleen Graham, Minden

“I think Douglas is way ahead of it. It was nice to hear what is legal and to know I can call to find out more. Because the kids will say to you, ‘You can’t do that to me,’ but you can if they are in your house.”

Gina Greenwood, Gardnerville

“I think the school system needs to focus on putting kids in programs like this instead of just suspending them right away. I learned more here than I did the hour I spent in my son’s school. They need to stop labeling kids because they get lost in the system. This has given me hope.”

Tammy Brower, Gardnerville

“It was really informational. I don’t think anyone could go away having not learned something about violence in our community. Being aware of it can help. Now I will keep my eyes open and keep an eye on my children and on other’s children.”

Jo Stice, Minden

“I think it is more important to be proactive and being informed and knowing what community services are available will help prevent something. We can’t guarantee it won’t happen here, but the more the community is involved, the more we will work together.”

To learn more, call your school or these county officials and counselors who can help:

– Sgt. Lance Modispatcher, public information officer, 782-9931

– Sgt. Stan Lamb, Community Action Team, 782-9075

– Deputy Greg Shields, Peer Court, 782-9935

– Deputy Phil Lesquereux, School Safety Intervention Team, 782-9935

– Deputy District Attorney Derrick Lopez, juvenile crime, 782-9800

– Martie Graham-Jones, Family Support Council, 782-8692

– Maggie Allen, communications liaison, 782-5210