School district: Meneley bullying not ‘out of control’
Following a Reno news station’s report last week about bullying at Meneley Elementary School, Douglas County School District officials are assuring parents there is no “out-of-control” problem at the Gardnerville Ranchos site.
“I can’t speak for what was going on last year, but from what I can gather from folks, I don’t think Meneley is dealing with more issues than any other school,” Superintendent Lisa Noonan said Friday. “Every school, sooner or later, deals with bullying issues. Everyone, parents, staff, counselors, has to be vigilant in watching for these things. One has to make sure students are properly disciplined, and that there’s enforcement of the rules and a safe environment. On the other hand, these are children. We can’t just punish them; we also have to help, counsel and retrain.”
On Wednesday, KRNV News 4 aired a piece alleging that not only is bullying out of control at the school, but that district staff has been negligent in controlling it.
“Several of those parents and children told News 4’s Shelby Sheehan why they believe the principal and the school aren’t doing enough to keep them safe,” text of the story read on News 4’s Web site. “Intimidation, threats and physical abuse. That is what some parents say their kids put up with on a regular basis at CC Meneley Elementary school in Gardnerville. It’s so bad, they said, bullying has forced them to question sending their children to school there.”
On Friday, Noonan responded by saying nobody in the district has turned a blind eye to bullying.
“The complaints came forward at the end of last year, and the district office was available to meet with people,” she said. “The education services office told parents to let them know if it continues and if they have more concerns.”
Noonan said the district has policies in place to address bullying. District-wide, schools participate in the Safe School Ambassadors program, which trains students themselves to combat bullying using problem-solving skills and leadership, from “putting up a put-down,” and helping friends consider the consequences of bullying, to finding adults when the situation becomes serious.
Developed by the nonprofit organization Community Matters, the program was first adopted by Pinon Hills Elementary School in 2007.
“I’m afraid what happened here is that the big station came and did a story, and then people made assumptions that aren’t accurate,” Noonan said. “I’m concerned people are making connections that are not accurate about why she left.”
Noonan was referring to former Meneley Principal Paula Zona, who, after three years at Meneley, just started a new position at Seeliger Elementary School in Carson City.
“I absolutely believe Paula took the job in Carson for family reasons,” Noonan said. “They are completely unrelated. I don’t know a principal who doesn’t deal with bullying as part of the job.”
Zona’s husband, Jason Zona, is principal of Pioneer High School in Carson.
On Friday, Zona said Sheehan interviewed her on July 12, even though the story didn’t air until Aug. 18.
“I didn’t interview for Seeliger until July 21, so it had nothing to do with it,” Zona said. “C.C. Meneley is a wonderful school and that deserves to be in the spotlight. Bullying happens in any school, and we teach our staff to deal with it on a daily basis through progressive discipline.”
Former Assistant Superintendent Nancy Bryant has come out of retirement to act as interim principal of Meneley until new hire Becky Rugger, a former Douglas High administrator, takes the reins in the next few weeks.
“We’re looking forward to having Becky Rugger on board,” Noonan said. “I don’t think there will ever be a day when we’re finished watching out for bullies. It’s part of school life, and we have to be on the lookout for responses in our children.”
Noonan said she was saddened that Meneley had to kick off the new school year with a controversial story.
“It’s something from last year,” she said. “Let’s get on to the new year.”
Bryant said any depiction of out-of-control bullying at Meneley is not true.
“There was a follow-up story after several people called her (Sheehan) in support of the school,” she said.
Bryant said parents were also contacting the school itself expressing their support.
“Really, the parents love the school,” she said. “We are going to have some incidents of bullying, but they’ll be taken care of.”